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Setback for Trump's federal aquaculture ambitions

5 August 2020, at 10:45am

Plans to establish an extensive network of aquaculture facilities in US federal waters have potentially suffered a major setback, following a decision by a Louisiana court.

A coalition of interests, including environmentalists and fishermen, has opposed the establishment of offshore aquaculture facilities in the Gulf of Mexico
A coalition of interests, including environmentalists and fishermen, has opposed the establishment of offshore aquaculture facilities in the Gulf of Mexico

A federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected NOAA's argument that it could issue aquaculture permits in the Gulf of Mexico because of the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to regulate the "catching, taking or harvesting of fish."

The 2-1 majority decision affirmed a 2018 ruling that NOAA only had authority to regulate the "traditional fishing of wild fish" and that if Congress meant for the agency to oversee fish farming, lawmakers would have made that explicit in the nation's primary fisheries law, according to E&E News.

"The act neither says nor suggests that the agency may regulate aquaculture," the appellate judges wrote. "The agency interprets this silence as an invitation, but our precedent says the opposite: Congress does not delegate authority merely by not withholding it."

The judges said only Congress had the power to grant such powers to NOAA.

"If anyone is to expand the 40-year-old Magnuson-Stevens Act to reach aquaculture for the first time, it must be Congress," they said.