The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will commence a series of listening sessions beginning today to discuss its five-year strategic plan, which targets an increase in aquaculture production by granting leases for aquaculture sites in federal waterways.
Currently aquaculture facilities are not permitted in federal waters (ie those further than three miles off the coast) putting a severe restriction on the country’s ability to produce its own seafood. Given the US seafood deficit - which stood at $15.1 billion dollars in 2017 - the pro-aquaculture lobby has long sought some form of framework which would allow for expansion offshore, while environmental NGOs such as Friends of the Earth (FoE) have taken the opposite stance.
Accoridng to FoE: “NOAA’s plan offers a utopian vision for factory fish farming, the reality is that these facilities would destroy our wild-capture fishing industries, devastate the ocean ecosystem and give mega-corporations greater control of our food production system.”
“NOAA's rush to site finfish aquaculture in federal waters with no mandate will come at the expense of the environment, our wild capture seafood markets and our fisheries and fishing communities,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
“If the agency were truly interested in listening, they'd already know what we've been saying for years: their plans are incompatible with the fishing way of life. The finfish aquaculture industry cannot be entrusted with the biosecurity of our oceans. We look forward to reiterating these decades-old issues anew at NOAA's public listening sessions.”
FoE has collected more than 36,000 signatures on a petition to NOAA calling for an end to this “irrational, self-imposed mission”.
The listening sessions come shortly after Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker introduced the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act. Should the bill become law, it would establish a permitting system for net pen farming in US waters.