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Fishing for An Answer

  • Linda Platts
  • Ocean fisheries around the world are in trouble. Adri Bout of the Netherlands had fished the North Sea for 25 years. He knew there were too many boats competing for too few fish, so he decided to tackle the problem on land. Today, he raises 100 tons of turbot a year in eight-story fish high-rises of his own design.

    Modern fish farms got started about 35 years ago on a small scale and have since exploded into an industry that provides half the fish on the worldwide market. Despite the growth of this industry, farmed fishing has had some serious and persistent problems such as unsanitary conditions, disease epidemics, lice, weakened genes, pollution of surrounding waters, and poor tasting fish.

    Bout knew what he was facing, but he also knew that the demand for fish was rising. If someone could figure out how to do it better, there was money to be made. Bout poured his time, money, and ingenuity into his project—and lost thousands of fish as he perfected the technology.

    Eventually, he decided to focus his efforts on turbot, considered a delicacy by many and served in fine restaurants. He gave the fish plenty of space; clean, circulated, and filtered water; and cold temperatures to discourage the growth of bacteria. He also reduced his energy costs—a problem at many fish farms—with the use of gravity. By building his farm vertically, he can pump water to the top level and let it flow downward through the eight stacked fish tubes. At each level, it is filtered before flowing into the next tube. Disposing of the untreated waste without flushing it into the sea has turned out to be a profit-making venture of its own. Bout oxidizes the waste to sell as plant food.

    Bout is excited about the success of his project, but he is anxious to move on to the next. With more resources available to him now, he is planning to raise sole—for a bigger profit.

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