Photograph by Spencer Millsap
Photograph by Spencer Millsap

Swimming With Tomorrow’s Fish

Last week in Panama, we spent a few days with Brian O’Hanlon, a visionary in two different ways. For one, he’s farming a fish called cobia that’s new to most of the world. Cobia is native to the mid-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific and has an impressive resume: it grows efficiently, packs the nutrient punch that sets fish apart from other protein, and is high grade meat that doesn’t taste fishy. We tried it and you might also, if for no reason than to see how it compares to the species we saw most of the world already eats, like salmon, carp, and sea bass.

The other thing O’Hanlon wants to do is change the way all fish are farmed. Populations of wild fish are declining globally, putting more pressure on aquaculture to supplement humanity’s fish diet. Farmers who raise fish often hear the criticism that fish aren’t their healthiest in concrete pens. Nor can they grow to full size when packed densely together. O’Hanlon wants to solve both problems by farming in the open ocean using giant pens that confine the fish in their natural habitat.

We saw the idea at work, first overhead in a helicopter and then underwater. O’Hanlon’s company, called Open Blue, picked Panama to start but wants to expand open-ocean farming one day near your coast. If the idea can surmount regulatory hurdles around the world, it might be the key to farming more healthy fish that are produced closer to the people who eat them.

Step in, around, and through our experience investigating the future of fish here.

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