Groups Join Oceans March in DC To Oppose Ocean Fish Farms

Hundreds of people joined together in a March for the Oceans on June 9th in Washington, DC, just following Capitol Hills Ocean Week. A strong contingent of participants wearing pins and carrying signs with the hashtag “#dontcageouroceans”, were there to oppose the development of industrial ocean fish farms, including those from: Friends of the Earth, Recirculating Farms Coalition, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Gulf Restoration Network, and Green Justice Legal.

Worldwide, ocean finfish aquaculture has caused a wide range of problems, including fish escapes; deaths of sharks, seals and other marine life; and changes in ocean ecosystems.

Over the past 15 years, Congress proposed draft laws that would permit industrial finfish farming around the U.S. However, overwhelming public opposition stopped enactment of such sweeping federal laws. Now, Capitol Hill legislators are developing a new initiative for industrial aquaculture in U.S. waters. Opponents are collectively rising to protect fishing communities, public health and our oceans.

Diverse organizations are rapidly joining the campaign to stop industrial finfish farming. Many are planning activities to reach out to others and get them involved in protecting our oceans.

Learn more here

Sign the petition to stop industrial ocean finfish farms here.

 

 

Johns Hopkins: Near and Offshore Finfish Aquaculture Poses Risks

Expanding nearshore finfish farming or establishing an offshore industry in the U.S. carries significant risks to aquatic ecosystems and public health, according to a report published by researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

The report assesses whether an expanded industry in the US would be environmentally sound and safe based on current production practices.The research team found the major issues surrounding NOFA to be: large numbers of recent farmed fish escapes, infectious disease outbreaks on farms, development of drug resistant parasites and bacteria, persistence of veterinary drugs in the environment, fish waste causing local and regional ecosystem impacts, and dangers that could cause elevated rates of injury and death among workers.

See the full report here.

Federal Fish Farming Lawsuit Moves Forward

On September 21st commercial and recreational fishing groups, and conservation, consumer and farming organizations jointly filed their arguments in a legal brief on why the federal government cannot allow industrial aquaculture in U.S. waters. Read more here.

The new filings are notably significant, as the entire case could be won or lost on the information just submitted. The next likely steps in the suit are for the government to respond to the arguments made by the groups regarding why the government should not make this rule allowing fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico, and then for the judge to render a decision.

MSC Reviews Gulf Menhaden Fishery For Label

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a private labeling enterprise that reviews fisheries worldwide for certification to their standards. Companies seeking certification for their fisheries pay a fee to the MSC for review and certification. Fisheries are rarely entirely denied the label, though some fisheries have been given conditional certification if they make certain changes or improvements. Whether the label does or does not actually represent “sustainability” in fishing, the MSC label is one of the few that consumers often recognize on seafood, in large part due to intensive outreach and marketing. Name recognition may encourage shoppers to buy MSC labeled seafood.

Over recent months, MSC has been reviewing the Gulf menhaden fishery at the request of Omega Protein. Most people are not familiar with menhaden, (aka “pogies”in the Gulf). This is because menhaden is mostly a bait and reduction fishery – meaning menhaden aren’t eaten directly by people as an entree – most are “reduced” to fish oil and fishmeal for use in pet feed, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals (like fish oil pills) among other products and some is used directly as bait for catching other fish. Menhaden is the second largest fishery by weight in the United States, with over 1 billion pounds caught annually from the Gulf of Mexico.

Menhaden have been called the “most important fish in the sea”. These small fish are critical to the ecosystem – many larger fish in the Gulf rely on them as food, as do marine mammals like dolphins, and sea birds. They also are filter feeders so they can help maintain the quality of Gulf waters.

Menhaden are caught using spotter planes and encircling nets – so anything near the school of fish – like dolphins, sharks, and other fish, might get caught and killed too when the entire school of fish is scooped up and pulled in. The unintentional catch of other marine life is called “bycatch”. The menhaden industry itself acknowledges about a 1-3 percent “bycatch” rate, which sounds like not much, but considering over a billion pounds of menhaden are pulled from the Gulf each year, that means about 1-3 million pounds of bycatch annually, along with it.

The menhaden industry in the Gulf is just two companies – so most information is considered “confidential” – people cannot get enough good information about the fishery to know whether it could be considered sustainable or not. It is therefore difficult to support any MSC certification when there is little current publicly available information to confirm it.

Also concerning, is that there is no catch cap on Gulf menhaden except in Texas state waters. So companies can catch as much of these fish as they are able. Gulf menhaden are caught mainly in Louisiana waters and the rest in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. Menhaden are also caught in the Atlantic, where there is an annual limit. This means that companies could reach the annual catch cap in the Atlantic, and then go fish more in the Gulf.

With a current push for more aquaculture in the U.S., there may be a rise in need for menhaden to feed the farmed fish. Also, getting an MSC certification might increase sales of menhaden, and products with menhaden in them, to those who would think it is more sustainable than other sources once it has the MSC label.

We are now waiting for MSC’s decision on Gulf menhaden.

Learn more about Gulf menhaden here.

RFC Builds Farm to Feed Homeless in NOLA

What a great week we had here at RFC in New Orleans! We initiated our partnership with the New Orleans Mission, an organization dedicated to supporting the homeless in our city. We installed raised garden beds at the Mission’s Women’s House and many of the women residing there were excited to get involved. Check out the story WGNO ran about it.

When our work in the garden was done, we picked some of the sweet limes and rosemary that were already growing there and made fresh rosemary limeade. We all enjoyed getting to know each other. We’ll be spending more time together in the coming months, as we’ll host gardening and health supportive cooking classes at the Mission regularly now.

Next up – a new garden for the Mission gents too and an urban farmer training program! Stay tuned.