Fishery Council Approves Aquaculture in Federal Waters

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted this week to open up ocean waters managed by the federal government to aquaculture expansion with no standards. This ruling still needs to pass through the U.S. Commerce Department before allowing the first offshore farming in federal waters. The public and groups including the Ocean Conservancy are upset at the decision of council to take such actions. There are several concerns that the Ocean Conservancy has with the ruling:

  • Whether the council has legal standing to allow permits to be granted to federally managed waters for aquaculture farming.
  • Marine and environmental impacts of opening up aquaculture without guidance from organizations and scientists.
  • Public outrage over the issue.

Without going further into this issue, I want to go a little into depth as to what aquaculture farming is and it’s environmental impacts.

Photo by doegox.


Aquaculture is the farming of small fresh and saltwater organisms under controlled conditions. The various organisms including aquatic plants, crustaceans and molluscs. Some specific sea-life includes seaweed, algae, shrimp, oysters and even salmon. This type of fishing has been going on for centuries and many species of aquatic life have been domesticated through the process.

On the surface, aquaculture seems like a safe and effective way to farm these small specifies of sea life. There are however several environment concerns that come along with it:

  • Excess Fish Waste: Because of the concentrated levels of fish in the water, high levels of fish waste can collect in the waters where they are farming. This can cause a lack of oxygen in the water and adversely affect the ecosystem.
  • Net Contained Farms: Salmon farms are an example where they have huge nets of salmon in the wild. Excess feed and waste can contaminate the environment. Also, escaped fish are more likely to have diseased and spread those to wild species.

The big reason that aquaculture farming has become so popular is the fact that it is so profitable. Sustainable methods need to be put into place to ensure that these types of farm are not adversely affecting the oceanic environment.

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  1. With our expanding population it is imperative that we develop sustainable methods of farm raising a consistent supply of seafood. We simply can’t continue to deplete wild stocks, and it’s also become painfully true that we can’t scale current farm practices while protecting the environment.

    • Pays to Live Green
    • February 2nd, 2009

    Global Patriot: I agree completely with you. Japan has already taken a huge toll on their seafood supplies and are now depending on Alaska as a major supplier.

  2. Thanks for this post – I’ve been working at Food & Water Watch along with Ocean Conservancy to fight this plan. I completely agree that we need to increase aquaculture – but there are more sustainable ways to do it than offshore. Inland recirculating systems would be a much better solution – but because they require owners to actually pay for the land that they are on (as opposed to leasing a portion of a public resource – the ocean – for very little cost).

  3. I live in Utah and we have a ton of great fishing spots. I will have to look into this but I don’t think the state has gotten in to this yet. Good thing.

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