You wouldn’t find it if you didn’t know where to look. But six miles off the coast of Huntington Beach, California, amid strong currents, monster waves and Great White sharks, a 100-acre underwater farm is flourishing. “On the surface, all you can see is the corner buoys and the surface floats that we have that hold our lines up,” says Matt Grant, who manages the operations for Catalina Sea Ranch. “Everything else is underwater so unless you’re diving, you don’t get to see too much.”
Take a dive 15 feet below the surface, and the ranch Grant works for begins to reveal itself. Hundreds of fuzzy ropes hang suspended beneath the ocean waves, clustered with millions and millions of dark blue, smooth-shelled mussels. This is Catalina Sea Ranch, the first commercial aquafarm operating in US federal waters on the West Coast. The aquafarm is preparing to harvest its first crop of mussels in July.
The United States imports more than 90 percent of our seafood, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and most of the shellfish in our moules frites, cioppino and paella come all the way from Canada. “I found out that the United States imports every year about 35 million pounds of live mussels all the way from Prince Edward Island, 3,500 air-polluting miles away,” said Catalina Sea Ranch founder and CEO Phil Cruver. “I said, ‘We could do it ourselves, we can grow our own, offshore-California.’”