The Ventura Port District is moving ahead with a new project to farm mussels in the ocean off Ventura, an endeavor that would expand sustainable aquaculture and bring diversification and new opportunities to local commercial fishermen and the community. The Ventura Shellfish Enterprise (VSE) is a collaborative group seeking to permit a growing area for sustainably cultivated mussels in the Santa Barbara Channel off Ventura Harbor. Supported by a $300,000 grant in 2015 to the Ventura Port District from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the National Sea Grant College Program, the Ventura Port District, as a VSE member, is moving forward with the effort to obtain all federal and state permits needed to cultivate mussels in the ocean. They would be farmed by commercial fishermen and landed at existing fish offloading facilities in Ventura Harbor. This aquaculture effort would expand and diversify commercial fishing activities in the Harbor. As an entirely new industry to the Ventura Harbor community, mussel farming would stimulate the local economy and bring a new source of fresh shellfish to the public that is grown using sustainable and responsible practices — all while lowering California’s reliance on imports. “The Ventura Shellfish Enterprise project is exciting and innovative and will help make our local economy more dynamic and diverse. The benefits from this project are great. It will expand opportunities for existing businesses, increase the productivity of our harbor and continue to advance and promote Ventura beyond our county,” said Stephanie Caldwell, president and CEO of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce.
In November 2017, Port District commissioners voted to direct the district to prepare and submit permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use 2,000 acres of seawater bottom in federal waters near Ventura Harbor for the VSE project. The Port District and VSE partners also are moving ahead with preparing and submitting all other applications to local, state and federal agencies as required, and preparing all the necessary surveys, reports and environmental review documents. “It’s a milestone in the project’s history in that our board took a formal step to select a site and proceed with applications. This is a key step to beginning the regulatory and environmental review process,” said Brian Pendleton, recently named Deputy General Manager of the Port District. The project requires approval from the Army Corps of Engineers plus various federal and state agencies. The Port District and VSE partners hope to win approval and be underway in 2019. In 2017, the VSE partners hosted seven educational workshops and three site selection workshops. VSE reached out to the owners of over 500 commercial fishing vessels from Goleta to Port Hueneme to help select the best site. VSE considered many factors in selecting the best site, including potential adverse water pollution sources, potential visual effects from shore, potential interaction with commercial and recreational fishing interests, and the distance from Ventura Harbor. Learn more at www.venturashellfishenterprise.com