After a six year battle, a decision from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council on the proposal to develop offshore fisheries is expected soon. The Ocean Conservancy, which has been leading the fight against the project, encourages people to write to their local representatives to express their concern.
But why exactly is this project such a bad idea?
The Ocean Conservancy asks people to learn from the clear mistake of farming salmon. Salmon are predators, so in order to feed the fish, ocean trawlers must gather smaller fish to feed to the captive salmon. It can take up to three pounds of other fish to produce just one pound of farmed salmon.
The whole process would be like farm-raising lions or tigers by carpet-bombing a forest to kill food for them. It makes no sense.
The fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico would raise snapper, grouper, cobia, red drum, and perhaps even tuna, a predator high on the ocean food chain. The fisheries could raise up to 64 million pounds of fish every year. Some believe that disease sometimes common in farms could easily spread to wild populations of the same species.
In addition to opposition from conservationists, the plan has faced pressure from the gulf’s fishing industry, which worries that the massive farms would intrude on their fishing areas. While marine reserves, coral reef areas, and artificial reef zones will be off-limits, anywhere else would be fair game under the plan.
Any farmed fish area would be closed to anyone not involved in the farming operation, which would clearly impact fishermen but could also effect cruise ships and other tourism ventures.
“Before aquaculture moves forward into our federally managed oceans, strong environmental, socioeconomic and liability standards need to be in place,” said George Leonard, director of Ocean Conservancy’s aquaculture program. “What is truly needed are strong federal standards coming out of the congress, not the individual regional fishery councils.”
West Virginia’s Representative Nick Rahall, who is the chairman of Congress’ Committee on Natural Resources, has already written to ask that the plan be dropped. Ask your representative to do the same.
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