Capito learns local lessons
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito visited the Fresh Water Institute in Shepherdstown Friday to learn about technology being used for sustainable fish farming.
The Freshwater Institute, a program of the Conservation Fund, is a research facility comprised of about a dozen multidisciplinary scientists who work with government, industry and nonprofit organization to develop sustainable solutions for water resource management.
Steven Summerfelt, director of aquaculture systems research, said the institute’s purpose is to determine “how we use water and protect it.”
Summerfelt, who took Capito on a tour of the institute Friday, has been working to raise salmon in land-based freshwater tanks.
Summerfelt explained that these tanks provided a more sustainable alternative to ocean net pens or fresh water flow-through systems.
Summerfelt said that this technology used by the institute to farm salmon offers a solution to the problem of disease interactions and waste management associated with other techniques and conserves water use overall.
According to Summerfelt, new technologies that make farming fish more safe and affordable have the potential of providing new industry in the U.S., which now imports 85 percent of its seafood, and especially West Virginia.
Summerfelt said the U.S. currently only produces 40 thousand tons of seafood out of Washington state and Maine.
He said that approximately $50 million in capital investments are expected to be made in new fish farming facilities in 2012, making it potentially a highly profitable industry for West Virginia.
“It think its going to be good for job growth here,” he said
Congresswoman Capito agreed with what she called the “economic development aspects” of the work being done at the institute.
“I think West Virginia is really well suited for this kind of thing,” she said.
Capito also applauded the environmental benefits of the work the institute is doing.
“We’re all looking for ways to keep the water clean,” she said.