On a recent sunny morning off Long Beach, Philip Cruver throttled down his boat at the spot where his company expects to develop the first shellfish ranch in federal waters.
“Our goal is to show this can be done and put a dent in the nation’s $10.4-billion seafood deficit,” Long Beach entrepreneur Cruver, 67, explained from the deck of his 27-foot vessel.
If all goes according to plan, construction of a pilot 100-acre underwater plot will begin early next year, with the first harvest of a half a million pounds of plump Mediterranean mussels and 500,000 Pacific oysters expected about eight months later. The shellfish, which clean seawater as they filter microscopic plankton from the ocean to feed themselves, would be cultivated by the tens of thousands from “seed” planted on submerged lines of rope and hanging nets.
Shellfish aquaculture has for decades stayed close to shore in the United States — in waters regulated by the states — because the environment is rich in nutrients and the farms are near maintenance operations, distribution systems and customers.
Cruver sees advantages in placing a farm farther from shore, 1.5 miles beyond the 3-nautical-mile boundary of California state water. He believes shellfish cultivated in the open ocean would produce higher growth rates, better meat yields and heavier production than shellfish farms close to shore.