WILMINGTON -- We're surrounded by water here in the Cape Fear region, but our seafood may not come from the ocean for much longer. Because populations of wild fish are down, a team of researchers at UNCW is looking into ways to farm raise fish and help keep up with growing demand. Researchers are growing two types of fish at the UNCW aquaculture facility in Wrightsville Beach. One is black sea bass. They're in high demand across the country but low in supply here where they're fished. At this facility the fish are raised from birth. They're farmed and fed so that they taste virtually the same as they would if they were fished from the ocean. Chef John Howell at the bridge tender restaurant has been serving them as one of his specials since November. Bridge Tender restaurant chef John Howell said, "We haven't discovered a lot of difference. I think the fact that it's so fresh that makes up for anything that might be lost in terms of flavor. These fish are coming right out of the pen, they're coming directly to us iced down. They're just been pulled ten minutes prior. So as is the case this morning, these fish are as fresh as you can possibly get." Howell says most of his customers don't mind that the fish are farm raised. He said given the dwindling supply of fish, chefs like him are soon going to be looking to fish farms more and more as alternate suppliers. Fish farming -- also known as aquaculture -- is one of the fastest growing sources of food production today. Researchers at UNCW say some obstacles they face are high operating costs and finding available oceanfront property to build new facilities.
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