Aquaculture for all

Spotting Flaws in NOAA Fish Farm Plans

Sustainability Economics Politics +4 more

WASHINGTON, US - President Obama's FY 2010 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contains a glaring flaw that would prematurely allocate federal dollars to help fund fish farming plans that have not yet been federally authorized, says a recent statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.

According to the statement, the NOAA budget narrative requests a $2 million dollar increase for marine aquaculture, for a total of about $6.1 million for such programmes. As there is no comprehensive federal programme that allows marine aquaculture in U.S. waters, requesting increased funds to help review and issue permits is completely inappropriate and an irresponsible use of precious dollars.

"According to the proposal, NOAA needs the funding for ‘time-sensitive research projects.' Examples provided of such projects in the budget narrative include the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council plan to allow development of ocean fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico - a plan the Council approved in January 2009, despite overwhelming public opposition," the director.

"The Gulf Council's decision is not yet a done deal. The Council is an advisory body that can only make regulatory recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under NOAA - it cannot ‘authorize' any federal agency to act, as incorrectly stated in the budget narrative. The plan has yet to reach NMFS or NOAA for review and will be open to public comment once it is officially published in the Federal Register. This program should not be approved, nor provided funding in the federal budget, given the public opposition. It is very likely that it will cost much more than the dollars requested for marine aquaculture in NOAA's budget to offset the ecological and economic damage such a programme could cause in the Gulf region and beyond.

"Fish farming, also known as offshore aquaculture, is the commercial mass production of fish in floating net pens or cages in federal waters. Major concerns with the Gulf Council's plan include: no guarantees that there will be public benefits from exclusive use of common resources for private profit, no specific limits on pollution discharge, no protections for depleted fish or species of concern, no details on where the fish farms can be located or what the facilities will look like, and a lack of meaningful analysis on potential impacts to recreational and commercial fishing and economies of coastal communities that rely on Gulf marine resources.

"President Obama has asked federal agencies to curb spending on unnecessary projects, and NOAA should not be an exception. Federal money given to a potentially environmentally destructive and economically devastating program like ocean fish farming would be misspent. Instead, Congress and the Obama administration should be visionary and support research for more innovative aquaculture technologies, like land-based, re-circulating systems, to explore more sustainable options to meet our domestic seafood needs."

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