New RAS project to grow Red Drum, led by ex-Kingfish operator

Former Kingfish Maine operations manager Megan Sorby is setting up a new land-based project to farm US native Red Drum.
Megan Sorby leaves Kingfish Maine to set up new Red Drum landbased project. Photo: Megan Sorby.
Megan Sorby leaves Kingfish Maine to set up new Red Drum landbased project. Photo: Megan Sorby.

Megan Sorby, who has led operations for Kingfish Maine over the past four years, has announced she is leaving to start up a new land-based project farming Red Drum.

The species, native to the Atlantic coast and popular as a game fish, is in short supply in the U.S., with commercial harvesting heavily restricted.

Sorby intends to set up a new land-based RAS facility to cultivate Red Drum, and says a site has already been identified, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

A new project and species for Kingfish RAS specialist Megan Sorby

The new project sees the experienced RAS operator move from Kingfish, which has just celebrated its first harvest of Dutch yellowtail kingfish from Maine, following four years of work by Sorby and her team.

Sorby joined Kingfish Maine in 2019, leading the project as Operations Manager, and helping the Netherlands-based Kingfish company to secure the necessary permits for expansion in the US, building out a hatchery facility and increasing US broodstock.

"Being a part of The Kingfish Company has been a fantastic opportunity, and with the successes we have had, the Company has a clear path to continue with expansion in the US," Sorby said in a statement announcing the Red Drum initiative.

"While I continue to support the Kingfish team in the US, I am excited to spearhead a new development, growing a native species with a long history of being a legendary seafood product."

Red drum: a "premium" native fish in short supply

Red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to northern Mexico. The species has been federally protected from commercial harvest since the 1980s.

A limited harvest of red drum remains available in some US states, and the species represents a valuable game fishery. However, Sorby notes, current market presence of red drum in the U.S. is largely from imported farmed product.

The new project hopes to address this market demand for this native fish, and replace the need for imports with home-grown red drum.

"This development brings together a well understood culture process of the species and pairs it with the technological benefits and controls of RAS. We cannot continue importing this premium product when it is native to our waters," said Sorby.

"There's deep US investment in the research and development of this species.  Pairing red drum with RAS technology optimizes this species to its fullest potential in a domestic location."

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