US commercial fishermen take their aquaculture concerns to Capitol Hill

Commercial fishermen and their supporters let Congress know where they stand on a bill that would grant NOAA Fisheries the ability to regulate aquaculture operations in federal waters.

The letter, signed by 100 fishermen and supporters and sent to elected officials last week, claims each fish farm in the exclusive enterprise zone would restrict access to “hundreds of acres of marine space” to commercial fishermen. They also believe fish farms would produce lower-cost and lower-quality fish, which they believe would deter consumers from paying more for wild fish. Further, the letter raises concerns about the impact that farmed fish escapes and pollution stemming from fish feed and antibiotics might have on fishing stocks.

“Simply put, industrial seafood farms threaten the integrity of the wild fish populations that are key to our industry’s success, and the coastal communities we support,” the letter states.

In July, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) filed the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act to give NOAA Fisheries power to permit aquaculture activities within the country’s exclusive enterprise zone. In September, U.S. Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-Mississippi) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) introduced a companion bill in the House.

With the current congressional term about to expire, those bills will need to be refiled when the new Congress convenes next month.

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