The objections are forcing federal fisheries regulators to revisit details about ecological health and safety, says a report on news site Nola.com.
A meeting in Baton Rouge this week will see regulators resume discussions on introducing the offshore aquaculture concept to the Gulf. If approved, the area would be the nation's first testing ground for open-ocean fish farms.
With the United States importing 80 percent of the seafood it consumes, industry proponents say the fish farms could yield more domestic seafood supply and break the dependence on imports. But environmental concerns are hampering progress.
"To say 'no' and to stop it is shortsighted," said Chuck Wilson, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College program based at LSU. "But we need to make sure that first it's economically feasible and environmentally safe, and that those safeguards be in place. It's all about taking risks and understanding the benefits."
The offshore aquaculture coincides with heightened public concern about the safety of imported food, particularly from China. Farm-raised seafood is at the center of that debate, with evidence of the Chinese product, particularly shrimp, being tainted with banned antibiotics and other chemicals.
Environmentalists, however, fear the impact of the large concentrations of fish, farmed in submersed ages in one areas. They says it increases the risk of disease transfer and pollution from fish wastes. Gulf facilities would be limited to federal waters from three to 200 miles offshore: a much deeper and more free-flowing environment than the shrimp farms in shallow Chinese bays or the near-shore salmon farms of the Pacific Northwest.
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