CMR commissioners tour Stone County fish farm

STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The owner of Aqua Green fish farm in Stone County describes his operation as a "well kept secret." But with enormous potential for future growth, that secret may be getting out soon.

A group that included CMR commissioners, restaurant owners and researchers toured the aqua culture operation on Thursday.

"So, you can think of each of these as a sort of giant aquarium," said Dr. Bill Harris, as he guided coast visitors on a tour of the Aqua Green operation.

Visitors toured the first of several buildings filled with large fish tanks. Scientists carefully track conditions, including lights, which trigger spawning.

"So we can get one group of fish to spawn in one month, the next group of fish," Dr. Harris explained.

Aqua Green is one of only two such operations in the country.

"Re-circulatory aqua culture system. In other words, we have a full 360 degree system. We don't dispose of anything," said owner Walter Boasso.

Boasso is a wealthy businessman from Louisiana who began building Aqua Green four years ago.

"There's a tremendous amount of science. You can buy the best systems you want in the world. But if you don't have the science to go with it, you're wasting your time," he told the visitors.

Commercial production is focused on Florida pompano and tilapia. Thousands of pounds of live tilapia from this facility are sent by tanker truck to New York City each week, where they're sold in the Chinatown fish market.

"Very, very good potential. I think we could market this as a Mississippi grown product and be able to distribute it all throughout the United States," said Todd Rosetti of Quality Seafood in Biloxi.

One objective of this visit is to cultivate future public-private partnerships, both for commercial production and scientific research.

"I think if we're smart, we'll push things like this. It could mean jobs and a market for Mississippi. A good business for Mississippi," said CMR Commissioner Richard Gollott.

Seafood demand in the U.S. is expected to increase, while the supply coming from Asia will dwindle.

"As China and the Asian countries become more wealthy, most of the seafood the United States has been dependent on, is going to remain in Asia. It's not going to be imported anymore," Dr. Harris explained.

That means future growth potential for companies like Aqua Green.

The owner says one long term goal of Aqua Green is to raise blue fin tuna, which he calls the "holy grail" of commercially raised fish.

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