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Into the Gulf: Fish Farm Proposal

US - Fisheries regulators could vote this week on a proposal that would open the Gulf of Mexico to raising fish in underwater cages and pens.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which has been working on an open-water aquaculture plan for about five years, will hold a public hearing Wednesday during its meeting in Mobile before voting on the issue, writes Katherine Sayre for

According to her, the plan would create a permitting process for aquaculturists to develop large-scale fish farms, raising only native species in underwater cages. "Officials say it would likely require as much as $10 million to launch an aquaculture operation in the Gulf, where oil platforms from Alabama to Texas could be used as infrastructure", she writes. Species such as snappers, groupers, cobia or red drum could be raised in the facilities. Shrimp are excluded from the plan.

Proponents say raising fish in the Gulf could take pressure off overfished wild stocks, enhance recreational fishing opportunities and create new jobs in the seafood industry in the United States, where about 80 percent of consumed seafood is imported — about half of which is raised in aquaculture settings.

Critics of the council's plan say there aren't enough rules to prevent harmful environmental impact, and aquaculture could conflict with the interests of the commercial and recreational fishing industries in the waters.