Categorized | Agriculture

Federal aquaculture policies called disappointing, irresponsible

The following is a statement by Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch executive director:

“The Department of Commerce (DOC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their national policies on marine aquaculture. Sadly, these policies continue to promote the farming of fish in open ocean waters. On the plus side, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced a bill that would prohibit these federal agencies from authorizing corporations to pursue this irresponsible form of fish farming.

“Industrial ocean fish farming is a dirty way to produce fish, and contrary to DOC and NOAA’s claims, it is not a sustainable means to supplement the U.S. seafood supply, protect ocean resources, or promote a healthy economy in the U.S.

“Seventy percent of seafood caught or farmed in the U.S., is exported to seafood-loving countries like the EU and Japan, while the U.S. imports about 80 percent of the fish we eat, mostly from countries with few, if any, health, safety, labor and environmental standards.

“DOC states it hopes to enhance ‘competitiveness in and export to global markets’ with marine aquaculture in the U.S., which means these new policies openly support the use of public resources – our oceans – to produce fish to sell elsewhere.

“Given the current trend, if we follow DOC and NOAA’s policies and ramp up growing fish in our oceans, we’ll export the fish, but keep the pollution.

“The federal agencies even admit there is likely to be an effect on ‘the prices U.S. fishermen receive for their wild seafood products; competition with other uses of the marine environment; degraded habitats and ecosystem services; and impacts to diverse cultural traditions and values.’

“So admittedly, these ill-conceived policies fail to adequately address documented problems associated with ocean aquaculture – like pollution and the escape of farmed fish into the wild.

“Previously, NOAA stated that it wanted to establish a $5 billion fish farming industry in the U.S., but an industry of this magnitude could emit waste equal to the untreated sewage of about 17.1 million people — over twice the population of New York City. And waste isn’t the only thing leaking from fish farms: the open water salmon farms in the North Atlantic result in 2 million fish escapes each year, weakening wild fish stocks and spreading disease.

“Another major issue is use of wild fish to feed farmed fish. Most popular marine fish are carnivorous, meaning they eat other fish to survive. Some tuna farming operations utilize about 12 pounds of wild fish in feed just to produce a single pound of farmed tuna — leaving less small fish in the ocean for natural predators. Also, many coastal communities worldwide rely on small fish as a key source of protein.

“Not all aquaculture is equal. It’s time to move past outdated methods toward more sustainable approaches. Notably, the policies do make reference to land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and shellfish farming. Such methods could produce seafood in a more sustainable manner.

“Ocean aquaculture has been widely opposed by the public and Congress alike. Legislation to create a permitting structure for ocean fish farms failed in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The bill introduce today by Representative Young represents a critical attempt to stop misguided federal policies to promote ocean fish farming and instead protect the U.S. public from expansion of this harmful industry.

“We agree with Representative Young that ocean fish farming is something this country can do without.”


Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

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