Categorized | Agriculture

Ocean Stewards applaud aquaculture ruling


The Ocean Stewards Institute has applauded a decision by a Federal judge to grant summary judgment to NOAA in a lawsuit over a permit issued for aquaculture research in the open ocean.

Judge Susan Oki Mollway released her decision last week, clarifying and affirming NOAA’s authority to grant a permit for aquaculture under the existing Magnuson-Stevens fishing legislation.

The judgment stated that for any permit request, “NMFS will have to look at the specific activities proposed and determine whether those actions involve ‘the catching, taking, or harvesting of fish.’”

If the permit involves these actions, the ruling declared that such activity is governed by existing legislation.

The original NOAA permit allowed the experimental “Velella Project” to proceed, where a single, small submersible pen was stocked with 2,000 fish native to Hawaiian waters. The pen then drifted in the ocean eddies in federal waters west of the Big Island, from 3 to 75 miles offshore, in waters up to 12,000 feet deep.

The fish were fed a sustainable diet that replaced some fishmeal and fish oil content with soy and other agricultural proteins, and there was no measurable impact on the ocean ecosystem.

The research project was successfully concluded in February, 2012, and the company involved – Kampachi Farms, LLC – is seeking further permits to continue with additional trials.

“The results from this Velella beta-test were of great value to us, and to environmentalists and seafood lovers everywhere” said Ocean Stewards president and Kampachi Farms co-CEO Neil Anthony Sims. “We should continue to move forward with developing responsible, sustainable sources of great-tasting, healthful fish. The world’s appetite for seafood grows, and we cannot increase our pressure on wild fish stocks. We need to find sustainable solutions. That’s what this research was exploring.”

NOAA had conducted an Environmental Assessment of the project proposal, and found there was no potential for any significant impact. The lawsuit had also claimed an Environmental Impact Statement was required, but as the research had been completed and the plaintiffs identified “no actual harm resulting from the [Kampachi Farms] project,” Mollway concluded the claim was “moot.”

Sims questioned the reasoning behind the original law suit.
“Why would you waste taxpayers’ money dragging NOAA into court to try to make them stop giving out research permits? Should we stop all research in the ocean? Should such research be unregulated? Or should we stop eating fish altogether? The extremist groups behind this lawsuit are not environmentalists – they are obstructionists. They are hindering responsible research towards sustainable solutions.”

Sims said Ocean Stewards values its close working relationships with leading environmental organizations that are truly addressing the issue of a sustainable seafood supply.

The Ocean Stewards Institute is a trade association that provides leadership and reasoned advocacy for the best use and management of our open oceans. The Ocean Stewards assert that increased production of environmentally-sound, healthful, high quality seafood from open ocean waters is an environmental, economic and public health imperative. This opportunity must be balanced by strong protection of the ocean’s fragile ecosystems.

The Ocean Stewards recognize that we are operating within the public domain, and want to see this industry – and other uses of open ocean waters – develop in a way that meets the expectations of the community and the seafood consumer. The Ocean Stewards are the true revolutionaries of the Blue Revolution.

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Food & Water Watch disappointed in ruling

Statement from Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter:

“We are very disappointed by the court’s decision, which seems to say that aquaculture facilities can be permitted in federal waters, even if not authorized by a regional fishery management council. We do not think this is what Congress contemplated when they enacted our nation’s fishing laws, and we are currently considering all of our legal options, including an appeal.

“In her ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway approved the National Marine Fisheries Service’s issuance of a ‘fishing’ permit for Kona Blue Water Farms’s Velella aquaculture project in federal waters off of Hawaii. The agency had contended that it could issue the permit under the federal fishery law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery, Conservation, and Management Act, which defines the term ‘fishing’ to also include ‘harvesting.’ The court found the issuance of the permit to KBWF reasonable because ‘[t]he project involved the growing and gathering a ‘crop’ of almaco jack to sell for human consumption.’

“Food & Water Watch feels strongly that NMFS should not have granted KBWF a permit at all. NMFS’s determination that, when Congress used the word ‘harvesting’ in the 1976 law, its somehow contemplated allowing the raising of fish in futuristic floating industrial fish farming cages in the open ocean – as if it was traditional fishing – is completely without merit. Regardless, in this case, the governing regional fishery management council never even authorized the activities in the federal waters off of Hawaii, and a proper environmental impact study was never conducted.

“Food & Water Watch and KAHEA filed a suit against NMFS in August, 2011, for issuing an illegal fishing gear permit to Kona Blue Water Farm for their Velella Project. The lawsuit is based on the fact that the federal government lacked the authority to grant the permit and failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of Kona Blue’s offshore aquaculture operations as required under federal law.”

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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One Response to “Ocean Stewards applaud aquaculture ruling”

  1. Dallas says:

    The Food and Water Watch is just playing a financial game with this law suit. If they had won, they would get fully padded “legal expenses” paid for with tax payer money. Even when they loose, they can use this case as a fund raising tool and make all sorts of unsupported claims as they sell their FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and request donations.

    When organizations like FWW loose to a summary judgment, like this case, they should have to pay the tax payers legal cost and all court costs. As it is now, these activists have a heads they win, tails the tax payers loose game going.

    If they want to be a real “stakeholder”, the need to have a real stake or skin in the game.


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