Marine Farms Belize Ltd., a subsidiary of a Norway company, Marine Farms ASA, has asked the Belize government for permission to construct a 2,225-acre Cobia farm near Lark and Bugle Cayes, located approximately 2.5 miles off the Placencia coast.
If approved, a 475-acre nursery cage will be located on the south side of Lark Caye, a 500-acre sizing production area will be located on the east side of Lark Caye and a 1,250-acre growing production site will be located to the northwest of Bugle Caye. The project will use one 45-ft. work vessel, one 60 x 80-ft. crew/feed barge, and six to eight 30-ft. skiffs.
This development would be the first commercial scale Cobia farm of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and the tropical Atlantic.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project, numerous healthy corals, sea turtles and manatees will be affected. Also, according to the EIA, potential negative impacts will include the transfer of diseases from caged fish to wild fish; increased boating traffic among Dangriga, Bugle/Lark Cayes and Big Creek; increase in disease causing organisms present in the Caribbean Sea near Placencia; reduced coral and sponge growth; and deterioration of coastal waters, mangrove cover and wildlife.
According to the EIA, positive impacts will be the creation of foreign exchange and “20 permanent jobs related to production activities, and possibly some 30 jobs related to processing & sales activities.”
Most fish farming in First World countries such as the United States, now occurs offshore, often 30 miles or more, rather than in close proximity to coastal areas as is being proposed by Marine Farms Belize Ltd. for Bugle and Lark Cayes.
The EIA for this project can be downloaded at http://www.doe.gov.bz/EIAs.html or obtained from the Placencia Village Council Chairman, Brian Yearwood.