Monica H. San Miguel, Chief Marketing Officer of Forever Oceans, spoke to us about this innovative and highly sustainable form of aquaculture and the Forever Oceans fish, which is cultivated in offshore deep waters.
Please tell us about Forever Oceans and how your aquaculture units differ from other aquaculturists.
We’re a sustainable seafood company that offers Forever Oceans fish, a delicious, versatile and nutritious finfish which is rich in Omega-3s.
What makes us unique is the sustainable way our fish are ocean raised, in protected pristine waters. They’re raised within large, automated enclosures inside deep water. This creates a more natural environment for the fish, as they can swim and exercise in a similar way as they would in the wild.
We apply our know-how in fish and apply unique innovations – for example, we use a specially designed submerged enclosure that works with nature, not against it. It orients itself within the ocean current so that nature is our silent partner, flushing away excess nutrients. And we use real-time sensors to monitor the health and wellbeing of our fish, as well as water quality. The end result is a truly consistent and quality product, which doesn’t impact the environment.
This is a new kind of deep ocean aquaculture made possible by innovative technologies that boost efficiency while reducing operational risks. All this fits our mission to provide a new way for the world to produce delicious, sustainable seafood that’s good for people and the planet.
Who is your target market?
We’re initially targeting restaurants: seafood, sushi, casual and fine dining, followed by supermarkets, in the US. Eventually, we’ll sell directly to consumers too.
What have been the biggest challenges for Forever Oceans in terms of innovation?
We operate in deep waters, normally three to ten miles offshore. At times, the weather can be rough, so we’ve adopted innovations that automate many everyday tasks. We even use
command and control systems and robotics designed originally for the rigors of space.
Our enclosures are automated and float using a single mooring, which limits any impact on the ocean floor while enabling ocean swells and currents to wash through the alloy netting of the enclosure. This flushes away contaminants and provides a more natural environment for the fish, effectively exercising them as well.
We constantly monitor the fish and water quality and have developed an automated feeding system that avoids food waste and excess nutrients in the water. We use fish cams and even employ underwater robots to maintain the enclosures, therefore limiting human interaction. We also use advanced software to optimize our operations.
This is a million miles away from your average fish farm.
What quality can consumers expect from your fish?
Great quality. The entire process is designed around two things:
1. The consistent and replicable sashimi grade-quality of our fish, and
Consumers need to be able to trust that the fish on their table is sourced sustainably without harming the environment.
We aim to go beyond that. In time, we seek to establish marine conservation parks, or sanctuaries in our concessions, where industrial fishing is prohibited. These will protect marine life and help to revitalize the health of our oceans.
Is any of the farming process left to nature or is automated technology employed from egg to table?
Firstly, we only ocean-raise native fish in the areas where we operate. We work with the local fishing community to source broodstock. We have a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) onshore hatchery where we raise fingerlings until they’re ready to be transported to our automated offshore enclosures.
Our submerged enclosures are sited to make best use of ocean swells and currents to help clean our enclosures naturally.
What factors do you consider when deciding the locations of the fish farms?
Firstly, it’s a very different proposition to ocean-raise fish than to fish farm in shallow sheltered coastal waters.
We undertake environmental impact studies.
We avoid hurricane zones, although I’m told our enclosures can withstand a category-4 hurricane.
Our enclosures are moored in 100 meters of water or more to provide separation from the benthic layer (ocean floor environment).
Each of our platforms uses a patented single point mooring system that allows it to naturally orient within the ocean current to optimize fish and environmental health. The mooring also limits impact on the ocean floor itself.
Our growing areas are surrounded by three-mile biosecurity zones to protect our fish and the local ecosystem.
We select sites where, on land, there’s good onshore infrastructure and transport links.
We’re in the process of applying for Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Certifications.
How do you overcome the stigma attached to aquaculture, in terms of levels of toxicity found in the fish and potential environmental impact?
o be fair, there’s greater risk of toxicity with wild-caught fish.
That aside, the reason why we ocean-raise fish is that it’s better for the welfare and health of fish as the ocean is a more natural environment. The sites we select are pollution-free and our fish don’t have any detectable levels of mercury or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). We regularly inspect for contaminants and quality.
The environment is so good that we don’t use pesticides. Antibiotics are not part of our normal operations.
We minimize excess feed in the water by using a unique automated feeding system. And nature really is our silent partner. The ocean swell and currents flush away any excess feed or nutrients. We, of course, measure a host of water quality parameters and remove dead and injured fish with the help of robotics.
How do your offshore aquaculture units comply with animal welfare standards?
We follow all applicable animal welfare laws in the countries in which we operate. We go well beyond them though in the way we humanely raise our fish. You won’t find our fish fighting for room in crowded cages in shallow waters. And when it comes to harvesting them, we introduce the fish into an ice slurry, which sends them to sleep.
Please tell us about the Forever Oceans Fish.
It’s a finfish which is highly praised by chefs and consumers. It has a unique buttery flavor and meaty texture. It’s healthy and nutritious. Forever Oceans fish, often referred to as yellow tail, has a protein level that’s similar to beef and chicken but contains around 40% less calories.
It really is a healthy option. It contains far less fat than beef and chicken, lower cholesterol and is rich in Omega-3s and vitamin D.
Culinarily speaking, it’s an extremely versatile fish. It can be steamed, smoked, grilled, baked, or poached, and it can be served raw as sashimi or sushi. Our fish are super clean, ocean fresh and of a consistent sashimi-grade quality. They’ll be available in US restaurants later this month.
How do you see the future of our oceans and what role will Forever Oceans play?
The oceans regulate our climate. They’re the life support system for planet Earth. Two out of every three breaths we take are generated by the oceans. They trap more CO2 than all the rainforests. If they fail, we fail.
At the moment 90% of big fish have been caught. 93% of fish stocks are either stressed (meaning commercially fully exploited) or overfished (around 33%). We can’t continue to strip-mine the oceans.
If fish is to stay on the menu we need to think differently. We believe eating delicious fish that’s healthy and saves the ocean can go hand-in-hand. Forever Oceans wants to raise the sustainability bar. Crucially, our approach is not only eco-friendly but restorative.
It’s early days for us, but we have big ambitions. Forever Oceans is forging a completely new space in sustainable seafood. We want to rip up the present script for aquaculture and provide a new way for the world to produce delicious, sustainable seafood that’s good for people and the planet. That’s our mission in life.