This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish There are schools of fish, and there are schools for fishermen. The Cod Academy is a year-long program in Maine, one of the New England states in the American Northeast. The academy is new. The idea is to train current or former ocean-going fishermen to become fish farmers. Sebastian Belle is director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. That group launched the Cod Academy with the University of Maine and other partners. Mr. Belle says the academy teaches all about managing a floating farm. "One of the things we've been teaching the students is how to feed the fish and not overfeed the fish," he says. "You want to give them enough feed, and not waste any."The students practice at eight fish pens about a kilometer and a half from shore. These circular pens are fifty meters wide and covered with netting to keep out seabirds. Each one holds as many as fifty thousand cod. A partner in the academy, Great Bay Aquaculture of New Hampshire, operates this fish farm. Most of the cod will become someone's meal somewhere in the world. Bill Thompson is fifty-nine years old. He served in the Navy and worked as a commercial fisherman. He says the Cod Academy made him a believer in fish farming. "Even if the wild stocks came back to their fullest capacity, they still wouldn't be able to feed the world. So I think this is the way of the future."He and his son were among the first four students who graduated in August. Like any business, fish farming has financial risks. Program director Sebastian Belle says students have to develop a marketing and business plan before they can graduate. Graduates can receive financial assistance from the Maine Aquaculture Association to start their own cod farm. But they will be expected to raise about half the money toward any project.Mr. Belle says the Cod Academy is based on programs to retrain displaced herring and tuna fishermen in Norway and Japan. These government-sponsored programs started more than thirty years ago. He says "It's never been done before in America and we're trying to see if it's a model that has some potential. " Maine had just one commercial cod farm when the students graduated last month, but Mr. Belle hopes things will change. "It's a native fish to Maine. The growing conditions in Maine are very good for cod, and it's kind of a natural choice for us as a state." For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 15Sep2011)
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