On July 18 Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced the Improving Agriculture, Research, Cultivation, Timber, and Indigenous Commodities (ARCTIC) Act, which, among other things, seeks to protect Alaska’s fishing industry by limiting open-ocean aquaculture.

Back in May 2020, then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order that gave the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration authority to approve fish farming in the open ocean. Murkowski’s ARCTIC Act will, if enacted, prohibit the arbitrary authorization of fish pens in the federal waters.

According to a summary released by Murkowski’s office, the ARCTIC Act aims to strengthen those communities, food security, and the seafood economy. Specifically, it supports domestic seafood production by increasing seafood processing in coastal communities.

Regarding aquaculture the summary states: “This provision also prohibits any federal agency from regulating offshore finfish farming unless specifically authorized by Congress.”

It comes as no surprise that while some other states embrace the prospect of developing offshore aquaculture, Alaska with its healthy fisheries has pushed back against the Trump executive order.

Alaska has long prohibited open water salmon farming because the of the risk – such as spreading disease, parasites, and escapes of farm-raised fish – that aquaculture poses to wild salmon.

Brett Tolley, the national program coordinator for the North American Marine Alliance (NAMA) celebrated the bill in a July 28 email, exhorting colleagues to ask their state senators to co-sponsor the ARCTIC Act, noting that NAMA and the Don’t Cage Our Oceans campaign, have lobbied in support of local supply chains, and against offshore aquaculture.

According to Tolley, the language in the bill “ensures that major resources go to enhance local and regional seafood supply chains (both wild-caught and mariculture) and that we prohibit factory fish farms in federal waters.”

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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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