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US faces federal finfish moratorium

3 May 2019, at 7:54am

The introduction of a bill that aims to place a moratorium on commercial permitting of marine finfish aquaculture facilities in US federal waters has been applauded by a coalition of environmental NGOs and fisheries interests.

Don Young, the Republican congressman for Alaska, has introduced the Keep Fin Fish Free Act, which would specifically prohibit federal agencies from permitting marine finfish aquaculture facilities in federal ocean waters, unless and until Congress passes a future law authorising such permits.

A broad coalition of environmental groups and fisheries interests has long opposed the possibility of finfish farms in federal waters, despite the country's $15 billion seafood trade deficit
A broad coalition of environmental groups and fisheries interests has long opposed the possibility of finfish farms in federal waters, despite the country's $15 billion seafood trade deficit

“This legislation will help protect our oceans and communities from industrial ocean fish farming,” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “NOAA is pushing to permit this disastrous industry at the expense of the environment and coastal communities, and has no authority to do so. We applaud Congressman Young for fighting against floating factory farms and protecting our waterways and wild fish stocks.”

Currently there is only one federally regulated offshore aquaculture producer in the US, Catalina Sea Ranch, which produces 2 million pounds of mussels a year in a 100-acre site six miles off the coast of California. However, plans to establish marine finfish operations have been mooted for years – consistently meeting with strong opposition, despite the country’s $15 billion seafood trade deficit.

"The United States is simply not prepared to manage offshore net pen finfish aquaculture in the Exclusive Economic Zone,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of Institute for Fisheries Resources. “Without the relevant legal mandates and adequate environmental and economic scoping, Interior and Commerce are managing offshore fish farms in a legal gray area, enabling significant harm to wild capture fisheries and West Coast fishing communities. Thank you Congressman Young for introducing this sensible bill."