LOS ANGELES (AP) — California regulators approved this week development of the first shellfish farm in federal waters off Southern California that could produce about 2.6 million pounds of Mediterranean mussels a year.

The California Coastal Commission agreed unanimously Wednesday to allow Catalina Sea Ranch to cultivate the bivalves in a 100-acre underwater plot nearly 10 miles off Long Beach.

The Los Angeles Times reports the company’s business strategy is in line with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s goal to create jobs, meet the growing demand for seafood, and improve the marine environment by putting more shellfish back in U.S. waters.

The company, whose office and harvesting vessel is located in the Port of Los Angeles, plans to build 40 longlines — each 689 feet long and 100 feet apart — for seeding outside the boundary of California state waters. Coast Guard-approved buoys will be used to suspend the longlines 30 feet beneath the surface, out of the way of commercial and recreational boaters.

Company president Philip Cruver said farming mussels would help clean seawater as they filter microscopic plankton from the ocean to feed themselves. He said shellfish cultivated in the open ocean grow more rapidly and yield better meat than farms closer to shore because of the abundance of plankton.

Company scientists will regularly test site waters and analyze shellfish tissue before the mussels can be sold, Cruver said.

“Under ideal circumstances,” Cruver said, “we would plant in March or April and expect a first harvest of about 200,000 pounds of mussels by the end of the year.”

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