International examples offer US a blueprint for aquaculture regulation in 2020
For many years, powerful corporations, assisted by the very U.S. agencies tasked with protecting and managing our ocean resources, have collectively been pushing for development of industrialized fish farms off the coasts of our shoreline communities. Our fisheries managers and other elected officials have done little to mitigate the looming environmental threats of such expansion. In many cases, they have overlooked those threats in an effort to increase opportunities for industrial aquaculture in U.S. waters.
Industrial fish farms, which hold many thousands of fish in giant net pens in the ocean, pump heavily processed feed, antibiotics and other chemicals into our waters. These water-borne factory farms unfairly compete with wild-caught fish at market and harm the ecosystem by allowing pesticides and high concentrations of untreated fish waste to flow from the net pens into our oceans. This is all in addition to the very real threat of industrially-farmed fish escaping these pens and outcompeting wild, native fish for food and mates, as we saw just a few years ago off the coast of Washington state.
Despite these serious risks, the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service are allowing and even supporting development by corporations that push for bills and policies to fast-track these dangerous projects without proper environmental review or public input. Proposed bills like the 2018 Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act would reduce transparency in the permitting process and ignore environmental impacts of new projects. Meanwhile, the federal agencies specifically tasked with protecting our oceans have churned out federal funding assistance to this industry and the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of granting a Hawaii-based corporation approval to build a massive fish farm off the coast of Sarasota, Fla., all without meaningful public outreach or critical environmental review procedures.
However, momentum is building to stop EPA’s plan. A recent public hearing on the facility garnered…