A U.S. federate appellate court in Louisiana ruled that NOAA Fisheries lacks the legal authority to regulate aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico, a setback to the plans to establish large-scale industrial aquaculture operations offshore in U.S federal waters.
The appellate court affirmed a 2018 federal district court decision throwing those regulations out. The Trump Administration appealed the lower court's ruling and recently reiterated the administration's commitment to developing commercial offshore aquaculture in federal waters. In a 2-1 ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected NOAA's argument that it could issue aquaculture permits under existing national fisheries laws.
“This is a landmark victory protecting our oceans and fishing communities,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director and lead counsel in the case. “Allowing net-pen aquaculture and its environmental harms in the Gulf of Mexico is a grave threat, and the court properly held the government cannot do so without new and proper congressional authority. Aquaculture harms cannot be shoehorned under existing law never intended for that purpose.”
“The appeals court correctly affirmed that there is no authority to develop a new offshore aquaculture industry under existing laws that regulate fishing,” said Marianne Cufone, executive director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, local counsel on the case. “Now, hopefully, the administration will move forward with supporting our struggling fishing communities and work collaboratively with other agencies and the public on modern, sustainable methods of additional seafood production, like recirculating farming.”
Neil Sims, founder and CEO of aquaculture company Ocean Era that plans to build Velella Epsilon, said to local news that “the court's decision won't hinder his progress and means one less permit for an offshore finfish farm but the ideal would be to have a robust management framework in place.”