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Fish farms in federal waters? An environmental vs. fiscal battle

US - Local fishing advocates are split over whether a federal push to encourage fish farming in American waters would help recovering stocks or would be an environmental and navigational danger.

A bill in Congress would make it easier to start fish farms by creating a streamlined permitting process in federal waters, which stretch from 3 to 200 miles offshore, though it would allow the adjoining coastal state veto power over any proposal 12 miles or closer to its shores.

Fish farms, or aquaculture, are large areas of ocean, usually measured in square miles, fenced in with barges and containing underwater tubular or conical nets that keep fish in one location.

Some in Gloucester are concerned that having a high number of fish penned in one area will create environmental problems for the wild aquatic population.

"There are problems with mixing with the wild, with waste and antibiotics, and all these things that might have resulted in a negative impact," said Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association.

However, Michael Linquata Sr., president of the Gloucester House Restaurant, said aquaculture is a way to end a large trade imbalance that finds the United States importing much of its seafood.

"It could create a tremendous amount of employment in the fisheries locally," he said. "If we did it seriously, we could produce as much from aquaculture in the near future as we did from the wild fish 50 years ago. We could probably equal the tonnage."

Fish farms placed offshore in areas with a slight current, and nets that end about 25 feet above the ocean floor, could provide a flushing system for the waste, Linquata said. Plankton, shrimp and smaller fish would feed on the waste and provide forage food for larger wild fish in the area as well.

Source: Gloucester Daily Timews

the Fish Site Editor

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