The move comes as some members of Congress are attempting to force through legislation to develop offshore fish farming nationwide.
In a letter to members of Congress, the broad coalition representing a wide range of interests, including commercial and recreational fishing, indigenous populations, consumer advocacy, food, farming and conservation, called on legislators to protect oceans from development of marine finfish aquaculture off US shores.
“Industrial marine finfish farming poses serious risks to our oceans, coastal communities and public health,” the letter states. “We write today on behalf of our organizations and our millions of members and activists to urge [Congress] to protect our oceans and oppose any legislation to develop marine finfish aquaculture in the United States.”
“Floating feedlots discharge untreated fish waste and other toxins directly into public waterways, putting marine life and public health at risk,” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “These factory fish farms harm wild-capture fishing communities by polluting waterways and flooding markets with low-quality seafood. Congress should know better than to open the Pandora’s Box of industrial ocean fish farming in US waters.”
While the US government has explored allowing industrial fish farming to expand domestic production of seafood since the 1980s, according to Friends of the Earth, "overwhelming public opposition has prevented any federal laws permitting such facilities".
Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, said: “Open ocean aquaculture is an outdated and unnecessary method for raising fish. We should be proactively using modern technology to produce sustainable seafood in the US that does not harm fishing communities or our environment. There is no need to develop industrial aquaculture facilities in our oceans.”
The Recirculating Farms Coalition formed in 2009 to promote on land, contained fish farming methods as a means to increase domestic seafood production without the risks to fishing communities and ocean ecosystems.
The organisations that signed the letter to Congress have a wide variety of concerns with industrial ocean finfish aquaculture.
Niaz Dorry, Coordinating Director of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, noted that: “This practice is associated with many serious environmental and health concerns, including: the escape of farmed fish into the wild, outcompeting wild fish for habitat, food and mates or intermixing with wild fish and altering their genetics and behaviors; the spread of diseases and parasites from farmed fish to wild fish and other marine life; and pollution from excess feed, wastes and any antibiotics or other chemicals used flowing through the open pens into natural waters. This all could hurt commercial and other fishing interests and our access to real food.”
The various groups will be in Washington for Capitol Hill Oceans Week to raise awareness about their concerns and urge Congress not to pass a law that allows industrial ocean finfish farming.