Aquaculture for all

Struggle Not Over for Fish Farmers in Gulf of Mexico

Technology & equipment Politics

GENERAL - Authorities approved a hotly debated proposal this week to allow large-scale fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico, creating the first federal regulations for a fledgling industry.

Opponents have cited concerns about damage to the Gulf's environment, as well the effect on traditional fishing communities that have relied on catching and selling wild fish, writes Chris Kirkham for But, according to the news organisation, supporters say the industrial-scale pens and cages could provide a new source of seafood, 80 per cent of which now comes from imports.

But don't look for farm-raised Gulf of Mexico red snapper or grouper anytime soon.

Despite approval Wednesday from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a 17-member regional advisory body that sets fishing regulations in the Gulf, the fish-farming plan still faces a series of administrative hurdles, and needs approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Officials who developed the plan say it will be at least a year before anyone could apply for an open-ocean aquaculture permit, even with the necessary approval.

More than 100 environmental and fishing industry groups have signed on against the fish-farming plan, and many say they are hopeful the new Obama administration will quash the measure or send it back to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for revisions. Advocates with at least one group, Food and Water Watch, said they will challenge the plan in court if the NOAA gives its approval.

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