NOAA may appeal Gulf of Mexico ruling

Aquaculture pens A court has ruled that aquaculture will not allowed in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Center for Food Safety

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering whether to appeal the Eastern District of Louisiana’s finding that it does not have regulatory authority to regulate aquaculture under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act following a decision not to allow aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico.

The decision was the result of a lawsuit challenging the Department of Commerce's new federal rules that would have permitted industrial aquaculture offshore in US federal waters. The case involved permitting rules for the Gulf of Mexico but was the test case for similar rules planned off all other US coasts.

The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that existing fisheries management laws were never intended to regulate aquaculture and Commerce did not have the authority to permit aquaculture as part of its regulation of fishing and wild fisheries.

NOAA stated: “It is important to note that this ruling is not a prohibition on marine aquaculture, either nationally or in the Gulf of Mexico, and we will continue to work with stakeholders through existing policies and legislation to increase aquaculture permitting efficiency and predictability.”

The federal permitting scheme would have allowed up to 20 industrial facilities and collectively 64 million pounds of fish to be grown each year in the Gulf, said the US Center for Food Safety (CFS), which brought the case.

Industrial aquaculture in open waters, such as the ones proposed, are associated with many serious environmental and health concerns including population declines of wild fish, as well as socioeconomic costs including displaced fish, lack of access, price drops and loss of income, said CFS.

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