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Aquaculture turns to high-end fare

21 May 2007

US - Gene Evans is Florida's only commercial fish farmer raising beluga sturgeon, prized for white meat and $100-per-ounce caviar. He used to hunt fish, now he's farming them and beleives its;l the way to feed the world.

With spear gun in hand, a young Gene Evans found the oceans off the Volusia shore teeming with fish. He loved diving and exploring the undersea world, sharing it with the vast array of ocean life that thrived there.

However, the numbers of fish seemed to diminish slowly and steadily and Evans could see clearly through his mask: The seas were suffering.

Evans, who hails from a pioneering Volusia County farming family, decided he wanted to put more fish into the world. The answer was to become a fish farmer.

"This will be the fish that feeds the world," Evans, 67, said of tilapia, an inexpensive and popular table fish that he raises on his aquaculture farm.

Evans has become one of the state's most well-known aquaculture farmers, raising hybrid bass and tilapia for more than 20 years and involving himself in myriad agricultural boards. Today, he's the state's only commercial aquaculture farmer attempting to raise beluga sturgeon, a fish native to the cold waters of the Caspian Sea off Russia, for its white meat and prized roe -- which translates to $100-per-ounce top-shelf caviar.

If he's successful, he says, he'll make a bundle.

Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota also has a sturgeon operation, although it is a different variety of fish and the nonprofit corporation is aimed at research and education more than at commercial ventures.

"We are growing several species of sturgeon, but our primary species of interest is Siberian sturgeon, Acipenser baerii," said Jim Michaels, sturgeon program manager for Mote.

"One primary difference between our operation and Gene Evans' fish farm is that, as part of Mote Marine Laboratory, we are operating a commercial-demonstration sturgeon program. We are developing sustainable technologies and husbandry techniques to minimize the impact on Florida's water resources. We then outreach this information to interested farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers, etc."

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Source: Orlando Sentinel



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