September 4th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

Why we should 'farm the ocean like we farm the lands'

Editor's note: CNN's "The Next List" will feature Brian O'Hanlon, founder of Open Blue, on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - The lure of the open ocean has long been the stuff of poetry. For Brian O’Hanlon, it led to his life’s work.

O’Hanlon is the founder and president of Open Blue, the largest open-ocean fish farm in the world. He’s also a pioneer in raising fish far out at sea. O’Hanlon believes that the depth of the water and swift currents make for a much healthier environment to raise fish than traditional farms near shore or on land. Aquaculture in the open ocean also avoids damaging sensitive coastal ecosystems.

O’Hanlon’s team raises the fish from eggs so they control their diet at every stage of development.

“Not only are you getting cleaner fish,” O’Hanlon says, “it’s free of any of those harmful contaminants that you commonly see in the news around seafood, such as PCBs, mercury, pesticides. It doesn’t exist. And we can prove it.”

O’Hanlon plans to bring full traceability to the consumer. Every fish now leaves the farm tagged with a QR code which, in the coming months, will connect the buyer to a website full of information on each fish -  when it was harvested, when it was shipped, even what it was fed.

As a boy growing up on the Long Island Sound in New York, O’Hanlon was drawn to the sea.

“I just loved being on the water as a kid,” O’Hanlon said. “In winter times, the times when we were away from the ocean, I would just have this hole inside of me.”

O’Hanlon's is third generation in the seafood business. His love of the ocean and his family’s ties to the industry gave him an early education in the perils of overfishing and the consequences of soaring demand - wild fisheries brought to the brink of collapse.

So, as a teenager, O’Hanlon became convinced that the future of fishing lay in providing a healthy, sustainable supply of seafood. He decided then to dedicate his life to farming in the open ocean and has spent the last decade doggedly pursuing his dream.

“The vision is to farm the ocean like we farm the lands,” says O’Hanlon.  “And I think in time, we’ll see an evolution in the way that we farm, the scale that we farm, the type of organisms that we farm, where … one day, offshore, we will be producing products to feed the world."

O’Hanlon’s passion for the sea and innovative ideas may just steer an old business in a new direction.

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Filed under: Food • Future • Innovation • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Emmitt Jochim

    In some countries, especially those with small numbers of animals being milked, as well as harvesting the milk from an animal, the dairy may also process the milk into butter, cheese and yogurt, for example. This is a traditional method of producing specialist milk products, especially in Europe.-;

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    April 25, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Reply
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    September 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  3. Paul

    Yes, please post this entire show on your site or youtube. I had to miss it and I am looking forward to seeing it. Farming is a reality on our planet and it's great to see people like Brian at the forefront of the next generation of farming that can provide clean sustainable protein for generations to come...

    September 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  4. sharonstjoan

    A word for fish

    One might have hoped that CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, who has a kind, gentle manner, and who is an American with an Indian background, might be more in tune with the tradition of ahimsa. Promoting fish farming in the oceans on his program The Next List, on September 9, 2012, isn’t going to do anything to help the world’s hunger problems.

    Alleviating the hunger crisis can be done by humans eating less meat (less of all kinds of meat, including seafood, fish, and chicken) and fewer dairy products – and relying more on plant-based diets. We’d be healthier too.

    Helping the planet (and ourselves, because we live here as well) won’t be accomplished by imprisoning fish or by further extending humanity’s sphere of dominance over the seas as well as the land. Since we’ve usurped and destroyed much of the earth already – air, water, and land – and killed most of the fish in the sea, it might be good to leave the remaining fish alone to live in peace.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
    • Joyce

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      September 25, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
  5. E de la Guardia

    Excellent idea!
    I will love to see it again. Do you think you could put this program in Youtube ?

    September 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply

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