Yesterday's Drilling Rig Is Today's Fish Farm

In the Gulf of Mexico, where the fishing industry's net profits have been sinking for years, a maker of commercial nets and researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a new angle: oil-rig aquaculture. The idea is to keep commercially bred fish inside a tent-shaped net that's attached at the top to the upper platform of the rig and at the bottom to the rig's pilings on the sea floor. The tents contain much more water than conventional aquaculture pens, so more fish can be raised. Also, because they are in the open ocean, the water circulation is better for the fish than in shoreline or land-based pens.

Beyond that, fish farming is a good use for scores of abandoned or dormant oil rigs, says Gary Loverich, vice-president for research and development at NET Systems Inc. on Bainbridge Island, Wash. NET Systems and MIT's Sea Grant Program are developing the idea with the help of a Commerce Dept. grant.

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