Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held illegal the Department of Commerce’s federal regulations (through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service) that would have permitted, for the very first time, large-scale industrial finfish aquaculture operations offshore in U.S. federal waters. The appellate court affirmed a 2018 federal district court decision in Louisiana, which decided those regulations were overstepping the agencies’ legal authority. NOAA/NMFS appealed the lower court’s ruling, and recently reiterated the Administration’s commitment to developing commercial offshore aquaculture in federal waters. The Court stated clearly that if the agencies wanted an offshore aquaculture program in the U.S., Congress would need to pass a law to provide the authority to do so.
While this decision is specifically about regulations for the Gulf of Mexico, the case has national implications, because the Magnuson- Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is federal in its scope, so by extension, if the agencies are unable to regulate fish farming as fishing under the law in the Gulf of Mexico, they are unable to do this anywhere else around the country, pursuant to the same law. This is a huge win for fishing families, coastal communities and conservation nationwide.
Recirculating Farms Executive Director, Marianne Cufone, was local counsel for the case, working with a team of lawyers, led by Center for Food Safety, George Kimbrell, Amy van Saun and Sylvia Wu, and supported by Zach Corrigan of Food and Water Watch and the late William M. Ward for Gulf Fishermen’s Association and other fishing groups.
See full press release here
Read full opinion here