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Lawsuit against NOAA's aquaculture regulations: Harm will be irreparable

Staff writer |
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a lawsuit challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) new federal regulations.

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Those regulations permit industrial aquaculture offshore in US federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time.

The plaintiff coalition CFS is representing a broad array of significant interests in the Gulf of Mexico, including commercial, economic, recreational, and conservation purposes.

"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."

Finalised 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, so the plaintiffs claim that farmed fish would essentially double offerings and flood the market.

"Our intention in being a part of this lawsuit is to not only help protect our members and commercial fishermen but to also help protect the fishing and non-fishing public who depend on the wild fish stocks from damage that may occur from a numerous amount of various dangers from farm raising fish in open ocean pens in the Gulf of Mexico," said Glen Brooks of the Gulf Fishermen's Association.

The plaintiffs have a number of concerns regarding the federal rule, including: the escape of farmed fish into the wild, outcompeting wild fish for habitat, food and mates or intermixing with wild fish and altering their genetics and behaviours; and the spread of diseases and parasites from farmed fish to wild fish and other marine life; pollution from excess feed, wastes and any antibiotics or other chemicals used flowing through the open pens into natural waters.

In addition they say that industrial aquaculture can also come with significant socioeconomic costs and that industrial aquaculture has actually exacerbated the population declines of wild fish.

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