Report Documents Efforts to Privatize Ocean for Fish Farming
Regulatory Agencies/Industry Work Behind the Scenes to Open
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - The aquaculture industry is working along
with U.S. regulatory agencies to privatize parts of the
ocean on behalf of corporate fish farming interests, according
to a new report by a coalition of consumer and environmental
Open ocean aquaculture (OOA) is the practice of fish
farming 3-200 miles off the American coast. Various government
agencies; most notably National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, as well as Sea Grant
programs and private companies, are currently in the process
of aggressively pursuing OOA development.
Currently there are experimental and demonstration off
shore fish operations going on in Alabama, Mississippi,
Florida, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Texas.
Fish involved in these projects are high value species
including: red drum, amberjack, summer flounder, cod,
halibut, red snapper and cobia. Commercial operations
are already underway in Hawaii and Puerto Rico
Later this year, the NOAA is expected to submit its "offshore
aquaculture bill" to Congress that will set up a
policy framework for the widespread commercialization
of OOA operations. If the bill is passed by Congress it
could green light not only a brand new giant bio-polluting
industry, but a wholesale privatization of the Continental
Shelf and an end to public stewardship over the oceans,
the report concluded.
The report outlines possible environmental risks associated
with offshore aquaculture including: fish escapes, transference
of disease to wild fish, discharge of sewage, and unsustainable
use of marine resources.
"By law, the sea and seabed are ‘held in the public
trust’, and ‘conveyance of exclusive private use rights’
is not allowed," said Dr. Mike Skladany, Marine and
Fish Conservation Director at the Institute for Agriculture
and Trade Policy. "Altering this precedent could
open up similar opportunities to a raft of competing corporate
interests. Oil and gas drilling, sub-sea mining, abandonment
of oil rigs, waste disposal and commercial rocket launching
are just some of the activities that would benefit from
such a redefinition, and there is mounting evidence that
a wholesale privatization of the continental shelf, may
be in the offing."
A major motivation behind the push for OOA is the growing
opposition to coastal fish farms and tough state regulations.
By locating off shore, fish farming operations could escape
state control. For example, it would be possible to locate
farms three miles off Alaska, though it has banned fish
farming to protect its hugely productive marine eco-system,
or raise genetically engineered fish three miles off California,
Maryland or Washington State despite their ban on these
The report calls for a moratorium on commercial OOA development
until national aquaculture legislation is adopted and
comprehensive, open and transparent regulations are formalized.
These regulations should include:
· A mandatory set of national standards for Open
· OOA permits issued only after conducting a rigorous
environmental impact statement that is consistent with
the requirements of National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA), and at least a 60 day public comment period.
· No part of the water column or bottom-lands
anywhere in the 3-200 miles offshore zone to be de facto
· Leases/permits to be temporary, and renewable
only if in compliance with strict environmental regulations.
· Environmental impacts from net-pen culture regulated
by adopting regulations and developing technologies that
eliminate as fully as possible; fish escapees, disease
transfer to wild fish, depletion of global fish stocks
for farm raised fish feed, and discharges of waste.
· Indigenous peoples’ free access to their lands
and territories fully ensured.
The report was authored by the Offshore Aquaculture Working
Group, which includes Ben Belton, Mike Skladany and Anne
Mosness, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis.
Jeremy Brown, Food and Society Policy Fellow, Bellingham,
Read the executive summary and full report at: www.iatp.org/fish