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Growing pressure on commercial as industry renews interest in Gulf

US - Gulf fishery regulators are reopening the fish farming debate, raising the possibility that huge cages full of farm-raised fish could one day hang from offshore oil platforms all over the Gulf of Mexico.

While a few previous experimental efforts to raise fish in underwater pens in the Gulf have failed, some disastrously, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is busy drafting a 300-page amendment that, if approved, would open the Gulf to anyone with a fish cage and a dream. The council will hold a public hearing on aquaculture Dec. 13 in Mobile.

Aquaculture supporters say the commercial fishing industry is moribund, soon to be done in by the hyperefficiency of modern harvest techniques that leave fewer and fewer fish in the sea despite federal regulations designed to limit the harvest and protect fish stocks.

They predict the $800 million worth of seafood hauled from Gulf waters annually will continue to dwindle as stocks of once plentiful fish decline, and they argue that cage-raised fish can save the Gulf's fisheries, enhance recreational opportunities and provide jobs on the high seas.

But some scientists note that fish excrement and uneaten food from aquaculture pens have polluted coastal waters in Norway, Scotland, Greece and elsewhere. Diseases have spread with alarming speed from open-ocean fish farms -- where fish are packed together in cages -- to wild populations.

Source: Al.com

Ellen Hardy

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