New bill would limit finfish aquaculture start-ups

Alaska Rep. Don Young (R) introduced the Keep Fin Fish Free Act in early May, a bill that that would prohibit federal agencies from authorizing commercial finfish aquaculture operations in the Federal Exclusive Economic Zone unless specifically authorized by Congress.

The seafood industry is critical to Alaska’s economy, and we must be doing all we can to protect the health and integrity of our state’s wild fish stock,” said Young. “If not properly managed, industrial aquaculture operations threaten Alaska’s unique ecosystem with non-native and genetically modified fish species.

There is only one federally regulated offshore aquaculture producer currently in operations in the United States — Catalina Sea Ranch, which produces 2 million pounds of mussels a year in a 100-acre site six miles off the coast of California. But plans to establish new marine finfish operations have been discussed off and on for years.

“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 the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, in a statement thanking Young for introducing the bill. “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.

The bill has also received public support from the progressive environmental group Friends of the Earth.

“Industrial ocean fish farms cause massive farmed fish spills, discharge harmful toxins and marginalize our coastal economies,” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for the organization. “At a time when federal agencies are pushing to permit this destructive industry, this bill will help stop the expansion of these floating factory farms.”

About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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