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Commercial and recreational fishermen and scientist join with Food & Water Watch for Hill Briefing on ocean fish farming and alternative approaches

"It can cause damage to surrounding marine environments, produce lower-quality fish for consumers, and undercut the earnings of U.S. fishermen. It also does not solve problems with overfishing, as wild fish are usually required to produce the feed for ocean-farmed fish".

September 9, 2009


Commercial and recreational fishermen and scientist join with Food & Water Watch for Hill Briefing on ocean fish farming and alternative approaches

Food & Water Watch joined with other fish experts for a briefing on the socioeconomic and ecological effects of open-ocean fish farming and alternate, more sustainable approaches to domestic seafood production. The briefing was in preparation for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife’s “Oversight Hearing on Offshore Aquaculture” tomorrow at 10 a.m.

The panelists included Tad Burke, a recreational fishermen from the Florida Keys; Paula Terrel, a commercial fisherman and representative of Alaska Marine Conservation Council; Martin Schreibman, PhD, distinguished professor emeritus, founder and director emeritus of the Aquatic Research & Environmental Assessment Center at Brooklyn College; and Marianne Cufone, Esq., director of the Food & Water Watch Fish Program. The panelists discussed risks associated with open ocean aquaculture and emphasized that the federal government should not facilitate the operation of ocean fish farms in U.S waters, given the many ecological and economic problems related to the practice worldwide. Rather, the panelist encouraged the U.S. to focus on an already developed and continuously improving technology to grow fish in re-circulating closed loop systems on land.

Ocean fish farming, or “offshore aquaculture,” is the mass production of fish in flow-through net pens or cages in ocean waters three to 200 miles offshore. The group claimed in a press release "It can cause damage to surrounding marine environments, produce lower-quality fish for consumers, and undercut the earnings of U.S. fishermen. It also does not solve problems with overfishing, as wild fish are usually required to produce the feed for ocean-farmed fish".

“There is no reason to push development of a potentially harmful new industry in U.S. federal waters.” said Marianne Cufone, Food & Water Watch’s Fish Program director. “National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies should promote innovative approaches to increased domestic seafood production with fewer negative impacts, such as land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems.”

Re-circulating aquaculture systems are closed-loop facilities that retain and treat the water within the system. They can reduce discharge of waste, the need for antibiotics or chemicals used to combat disease and fish and parasite escapes. RAS are not connected to open waters. Because it is highly unlikely that fish can escape the closed system, RAS can be used to grow a wide range of plants and fish without threatening the environment or competing with fishermen who make their living selling popular local fish, the release said.

“If there is a need to increase domestic seafood supply and supplement wild caught fish, then closed containment systems should be considered along with other possible approaches. This has not been addressed in any legislation or discussions of offshore aquaculture as an alternative to open ocean facilities,” said Paula Terrel, an Alaska commercial fisherman.

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