Project Title: The
Ocean Drifter -- Fish Farming on a Global Scale
Goudey, MIT Sea Grant
Drifter - Fish Farming on a Global Scale
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Whereas conventional fish farming cages can only operate in the
limited coastal margin where anchoring isfeasible, the Ocean Drifter
can be used in vast areas of the oceans, where average depths exceed
6,000 meters. In these larger bays and ocean basins, predictable
currents dominate. Some of these can be seen in Figure 3.
the image to view a full-size version.
3: The major ocean currents (from ONR).
is these currents, driven by prevailing wind, the Coriolis effect,
and temperature differences, that can be harnessed to usher in
a more sustainable form of ocean-based aquaculture. By avoiding
the contested and often polluted coastal margin, the Ocean Drifter
can reduce the damaging effects of storms, while delivering its
valuable, free-swimming cargo of fish to markets worldwide.
The May 2004 issue of Wired magazine describes the Ocean
Drifter in its cover article:
[coastal open ocean aquaculture] efforts as small prototypes.
Backed by federal funds, he has begun work on an
immense next-generation design, 174 feet tall and 270
feet in diameter,
called the Ocean Drifter. Unlike its predecessors, which
are fixed to the seafloor, this enormous cage will roam the
by three electric thruster motors attached to the rig's steel
equator. Powered by a diesel generator mounted atop
the central spar and
steered by software, it will venture hundreds of miles from
shore. When the fish are big enough to sell, a specially designed
will embrace the cage and hoist it aboard
The ocean is full of predictable currents, or gyres," Goudey
says. "If you could get the cage into one of these gyres,
it would essentially stay in the same place, or at least have a
predictable trajectory. Even if you had just a slight ability to
adjust its movement, you'd be able to control its path pretty exactly." In
his view, "you could build a fleet of these things in
the Straits of Florida, fill them with fingerlings of, say,
and let them follow the Gulf Stream for nine months until
they reached their intended market in Europe with a harvestable
Then you'd load them up again and send them back along the
southern route with another crop."
Interest has grown on this novel topic. Listen to a Fish Radio recently
broadcast on 20 radio stations in Alaska. Play
a program clip (mpeg3 format).
Of course, for true oceanic deployments, the Ocean Drifter operation must be
large enough in scale to be economically viable. Fish farming
requires substantial feed, and routine deliveries of such expendables
be provided on a regular basis. Whether manned or autonomous,
a fleet of Ocean Drifters will require service ships to keep the
cages supplied and properly maintained during its journey to
Work is underway to examine the potential of specific ocean currents, the markets
those currents could serve, and the species that could be cultured
on route. CFER is building a multidisciplinary team to further
develop Ocean Drifter and make progress towards a commercial-scale demonstration.
article "The Bluewater Revolution"
Tests and Operational Optimization of a Self-propelled
Open-ocean Fish Farm (.pdf document)
Clifford A. Goudey, MIT Sea Grant. In: A. Biran, Ed. Proceedings Offshore
Technologies for Aquaculture. Haifa, Israel, 13-16 Oct. 1998
Current map source:
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