On 2 October, Ocean Conservancy filed suit against the NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service and others in response to their actions of 3 September that will allow large scale fish farming in the national waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Through an unprecedented failure to act, Ocean Conservancy says NOAA gave the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's proposal for fish farming the force of law, setting a dangerous precedent for other regional management councils. Strong national standards are needed to ensure that offshore aquaculture protects the long-term public interest in healthy marine ecosystems, poses minimal risks to fisheries, marine wildlife, and the ecosystems on which they depend, and develops in an orderly manner that incorporates appropriate public input. These standards can only come from the Congress. In fact, Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) of the House Natural Resources Committee told the Gulf Council and NOAA that he did not believe that the councils have the authority to regulate offshore fish farming under existing law, even before the plan was approved.
"This suit seeks to end a misguided process for opening up our federal waters to fish farming without strong environmental, socio-economic, and liability standards," explained George Leonard, director of Ocean Conservancy's aquaculture programme.
"Now is the time for national leadership on the future of domestic aquaculture; the risks of escaped fish, fish waste, release of drugs and chemicals, and proliferation of disease simply can't be adequately addressed with a piecemeal approach. We look to Congress for their leadership on developing these national standards before we open up our federal waters to fish farming."
The case number is 1:09-cv-01884 filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 2 October 2009.
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