Providing consumers with cheap sea foods is the rationale offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for opening our Exclusive Economic Zone, three to 200 miles offshore to industrial scale fish farming. NOAA introduced the “The National Aquaculture Act - S. 1195” in June, 2005 and first hearings may be held in March, 2006. While NOAA boasts the fish farm industry could provide 600,000 jobs and produce five billion dollars worth of fish by the year 2025, the agency has not calculated the impacts on wild fisheries, coastal communities or small businesses. The bill provides no monitoring of risks, no provision for liability, no zoning that would protect other marine businesses, and gives complete discretion to the Secretary of Commerce in deciding what environmental protections should be in place. Other language in the bill would allow foreign ownership, and state laws would not be applicable since the operations would be in federal waters. The damage from the fish farm industry is largely under the waterline and out of sight. In Washington State, more than 613,000 nonnative Atlantic salmon escaped from relatively sheltered cages in 4 years. Sea lice, parasites, diseases, pollution and escaped fish from marine cages place wild fish at risk and scientists are increasingly calling for closed containment systems. Yet, NOAA is transferring tax dollars to private individuals and corporations for experimental gear development, feasibility studies, research on how to grow high value species that will directly compete with wild caught fish in the marketplace. The consequences of this legislation are so far reaching that Congress needs scientific information BEFORE they vote, but NOAA has repeatedly refused to prepare the required Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS).
Everyone who harvests, processes, sells and enjoys wild fish should contact their elected representatives and tell
them that NOAA must prepare the LEIS now – before they give away our ocean commons and our livelihoods.
Thanks to Anne Mosness of the Go Wild Campaign