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NOAA faces challenge to offshore aquaculture in U.S. Waters

Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a new lawsuit challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new federal regulations permitting, for the first time, offshore aquaculture in U.S. federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The case challenges NOAA’s new rule allowing industrial aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

February 18, 2016

Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a new lawsuit challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new federal regulations permitting, for the first time, offshore aquaculture in U.S. federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The case challenges NOAA’s new rule allowing industrial aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The plaintiff coalition CFS represents in this case a broad array of significant interests in the Gulf of Mexico, including commercial, economic, recreational, and conservation purposes: the Gulf Fishermen’s Association; Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance; Charter Fishermen’s Association; Destin Charter Boat Association; Clearwater Marine Association; Alabama Charter Fishing Association; Fish for America, USA, Inc.; Florida Wildlife Federation; Gulf Restoration Network; Recirculating Farms Coalition; and Food & Water Watch.

“Offshore industrial aquaculture will cause irreparable harm to the Gulf ecosystems and coastal communities,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for CFS and counsel for the plaintiffs. “We need to better manage and protect our native fisheries, not adopt destructive industrial food practices that put them at risk. This lawsuit, brought by a range of concerned stakeholders, aims to halt these shortsighted plans.”

CFS claims the federal permitting scheme, more than ten years in the making, is NOAA’s attempt to do an end-run around the United States Congress: multiple national bills that would have allowed and regulated industrial aquaculture never made it into law in the past decade, it says in a lengthy press release. \"In an effort to push offshore aquaculture forward without a new law permitting it, NOAA exceeded its authority to regulate fishing under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and now plans to permit offshore aquaculture as a “fishing” activity\".

Finalized in January 2016, the regulations will allow up to 20 industrial facilities and collectively 64 million pounds of fish to be produced each year in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the same amount of wild fish currently caught from the Gulf of Mexico annually (excluding menhaden). CFS says farmed fish would essentially double offerings and flood the market.

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