BELIZE - A subsidiary of Norwegian Aquaculture company Marine Farms, is hoping to construct a 2,225-acre Cobia farm near Lark and Bugle Cayes, 2.5 miles off Belize's Placencia coast.
The company, know as Marine Farms Belize Ltd, is currently in negotiation with the Belize Government for planning permission. If approved, a 475-acre nursery cage and a 500-acre size production area will be located near Lark Caye. A further 1,250-acre grow-out site will constructed to the northwest of Bugle Caye.
The first phase of development was completed in 2007. This involved the establishment of a nursery, two on-growing production sites, two caye-based camps at Ramsey Caye in Grennels (English Caye) channel and the Triangles, and a shore base complex for office, storage, net cleaning and processing facilities in Belize City.
This new Cobia farm would be the first commercial scale production unit of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and the tropical Atlantic. The fish are sold commercially, and command a high price for their firm texture and excellent flavour. Fillets are typically served grilled or poached.
Planned location of the new Cobia site in Belize
However, a environmental groups are against the project and the government also has reservations. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) says that numerous corals, sea turtles and manatees will be affected by the farm. The farm may also increase the risk of disease transfer from caged to wild fish populations and also as a consequence of the increased boating traffic in what is essentially and environmentally sensitive area in the Caribbean Sea near Placencia.
On the other hand, the project will create 20 permanent jobs, directly associated with the aquaculture business, and possibly 30 more in processing and sales activities. It will also increase foreign exchange and bring investment into Belize. The completed, three phase project will have the capacity to produce in excess of 5,000 tonnes of fish per annum with an export value of US$30m. The Government believes these factors are beneficial and must also be considered. Guidelines are in place and more can be implemented to establish a balanced and appropriate way forward.