It’s been a number of years since the federal government continued pushing to allow large floating cages filled with fish in our already stressed Gulf waters. Believe it or not, National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency tasked with conservation and management of all things fish and fishing in the U.S. – is trying to get people to believe that growing fish is the same as fishing, and therefore the agency is able to permit industrial fish farming operations in the Gulf of Mexico – and SOON! Last week, NMFS (pronounced “Nymphs”) announced that regulations to allow open water fish farms as close as 3 miles offshore in the Gulf are about to be finalized. There is a 60 day open public comment period right now, and following, the new law would be published as final.
Open water fish farming has a global history of serious problems – from massive pollution to interference with other ocean uses like fishing, diving, swimming and boating. Experimental operations have mostly done poorly in the U.S., requiring huge inputs of public dollars to remain open or failing and closing.
Recirculating farms grew in popularity as a response to development of open water fish farms years ago, because closed loop systems avoid most of the problems created in open water farms – there is no outflow of pollution, fish can’t escape, it’s harder for diseases and parasites to get to the fish, and there is no interference with wildlife. There is just no need to move forward with outdated open water commercial fish farms at this time when there are better, more sustainable options available today.
But for some reason, NMFS keeps pushing forward with allowing commercial fish farms in the ocean, starting with the Gulf of Mexico. In recent years, the Gulf has been battered by hurricanes, covered in oil and then sprayed above and below with chemicals in an effort to mask the terrible effects of the spill. The Gulf, its the wildlife and all the people who live near and work on and in Gulf waters can not handle the effects that can come with industrial aquaculture on top of the already existing problems.
And its not just about the Gulf – if this law is finalized, NMFS will try to issue permits in other places around the U.S. as well – where’s next? New England? California? Please join us in telling NMFS we don’t want industrial fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico -or any other U.S. waters.