On Friday, October 2, Earthjustice, on behalf of Food & Water Watch and the Gulf Restoration Network, filed suit against the Secretary of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), over a plan to allow factory fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico. The plan for this project violates existing federal laws. NOAA and NMFS did not take the required actions for finalizing the plan and they do not have the legal authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to issue permits to enclose areas of the Gulf for private, commerical fish farming.
For the first time in our federal waters, the plan would allow commercial offshore aquaculture, essentially factory farms of the sea, in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which approved the plan, an estimated five to 20 offshore aquaculture facilities would operate in the Gulf over the next 10 years, with an estimated annual production of up to sixty-four million pounds of farmed fish. These industrial facilities can produce lower-quality fish for consumers, undermine recreational fishing and other activities in the Gulf, undercut local fishing communities’ prices for their catch, pollute surrounding waters, and are likely to cause serious harm and habitat disruption to wild fish and other marine species, ranging from overfishing, to disease and genetic effects from escaped farmed fish, to entanglement of endangered and threatened marine mammals and sea turtles that are also present in the Gulf.