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Secretary of Commerce Sued over Aquaculture Plan

by 5m Editor
9 October 2009, at 1:00am

US - Food & Water Watch, in conjunction with several other organisations, has filed suit against the Secretary of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), over a plan to allow offshore industrial fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy organisation, sued because the plan and the process by which it was developed and enacted violates existing federal laws.The group, which has opposed the plan throughout its development, asserts, among other issues, that these entities did not take required actions in allowing the plan to be finalised, and do not have the authority to permit ocean aquaculture.

The plan would allow what are essentially factory farms of the sea in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (mostly between three and 200 miles from shore, except off Texas and West Florida, where federal waters begin at about nine miles). These industrial facilities can produce lower-quality fish for consumers, undercut local fishermen’s prices for their catch, and pollute surrounding waters.

“These massive operations primarily benefit private corporations and can harm consumers, coastal communities and the environment,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.

“Development of the first ocean fish farms in U.S. federal waters is not a matter to be taken lightly – or to simply be allowed to happen without detailed agency review and decision-making,” said Marianne Cufone, Esq., Food & Water Watch Fish Program director. “Rather than taking a stand, the agencies chose to stay silent, allowing the illegal plan to simply become effective.”

Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Zach Corrigan explained: “The process by which the plan was pushed through was unfair and wholly inappropriate.”

Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the entities involved have the authority to regulate fish and fishing—but setting up a permit system for ocean aquaculture facilities is far outside their jurisdiction.

5m Editor