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NMC Symposium to Explore Open Ocean Cage Culture (January 20, 2011)

As part of its efforts to further develop the CNMI’s aquaculture industry and to share information about successful aquaculture initiatives, the Northern Marianas College ”“ Cooperative Research Extension and Resource Service (NMC-CREES) will be hosting the 2011 Open Ocean Cage Culture Symposium next week from January 26 to January 27 at the Saipan World Resort. The community is invited to the event, which is co-hosted by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Open Ocean Cage Culture is based on spherical or double cone shaped cages made of a kevlar-like, high strength poly fiber netting, with a steel pipe frame giving them semi-rigidity. and are submerged to 40 to 75 feet. The cages are anchored to the sea floor with cement blocks and are submerged 40 to 75 feet.

The size of the cages can be anywhere from 20,000 to 1.4 million cubic feet. A 100,000 cubic feet cage holds about 60,000 fish. For harvest, the cages are brought up to the surface by blowing air into the frame pipes, just like in a submarine. The cages are best situated in water depths from 50 to 200 feet, depths that can be found just outside the reefs here in the CNMI.

NMC-CREES Aquaculture Specialist Michael Ogo pointed out that the best area for setting up cages is north of the Tanapag harbor. This keeps the fuel costs for the boats needed to feed and harvest the fish low. In other places, like the Hawaiian Islands, the cages are placed about three miles off the coastline.

Aquaculture industries are likely going to have a profitable future, according to Ogo. In addition to replacing declining wild catch in some parts of the world, these industries will have to provide 40 million tons of extra seafood to meet the demand from a growing world population by 2030. In 2007 Aquaculture was a 1.1 billion dollar industry in the USA.

“But where to build all the tanks and ponds that are needed without competing with farmers and ranchers for land,” asked Ogo. “The solution to this problem is to raise the fish in the ocean.”

“The possibilities for Open Ocean Cage Culture in our islands are immense,” added Ogo. “We have clean waters, suitable sites, and are close to the markets hungry for fresh fish.”

Featured speakers include Dr. Charles Laidley (Oceanic Institute), Robert Jimmy (Aquaculture Officer, Secretariat of the Pacific Community), Randy Cates (Cates International, Hawai’i), Neil A. Sims (co-founder Kona Blue, Hawai’i), Yoon Kil Lee (CEO NNT Systems, Korea) John Brown (Guam Aquaculture Development and Trainings Center), and Michael Ogo (Aquaculture Specialist Northern Marianas College).

The speakers will present peer-to-peer information on future developments of Aquaculture in the Pacific Basin. Presentations will be as interactive as possible to give participants the opportunity to share knowledge or concerns on the topics of aquaculture research, environmental impacts, regulatory issues, and business investment opportunities.

To register for the Symposium, call Mr. Mark Flores at NMC-CREES at 234-5498 ext. 1706. A registration package can also be downloaded from The event will be streamed via video teleconference to NMC’s Instructional Sites in Tinian and Rota, as well as simulcasted to the internet at This site allows for comments or questions during the sessions.

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