Gulf of Mexico fish farms move closer to reality

The possibility of Gulf of Mexico aquaculture moved another step closer to reality this month. But the small step forward – mainly adding a few rules for the proposed fish farming – caused fishers and environmentalists to once again speak out against an idea they fear will unfairly compete against local fishers and pollute local waters.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which advises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service on fish and fishing in the Gulf, recently approved the final draft of its proposed rule to regulating offshore Gulf marine aquaculture. After some more federal review and an expected public comment period this summer, the idea is that sometime next year businesses could begin applying for permits to establish red snapper, grouper and other finfish-farms in Gulf federal waters, which in Louisiana extend from three to 200 miles offshore.

The plan would make the Gulf the first region in the country to develop open-ocean aquaculture in federal waters, potentially reaping another 64 million pounds of seafood. The plan prohibits shrimp farming, and only allows the raising of native Gulf species.

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