Fish farming approved in federal waters

By Al Showers - bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Deep water fish-farming in the Gulf of Mexico took a major step forward Wednesday evening. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted in-favor of the controversial proposal.

Opponents say raising fish in a caged environment in the Gulf of Mexico could impact the fishing industry, the gulf waters, the economy and even people's health.

"It's too risky. It's too dirty, it's too big and we really aren't ready for it," said Christina Lizzi with Food & Water Watch. "You've been told it's too risky because we already know open water Samoan farms in the North Atlantic spread diseases, and have resulted in two million escapes a year, weakening wild fish populations. The systems that you're proposing to allow on a large scale in the Gulf are similar and would likely have similar effects."

"Our fishermen have been stressed. The resources, the area has been stressed. Don't let another gimmick of special interest put our fishermen in jeopardy of losing their jobs. This is not for the Gulf of Mexico. Do not allow this," pleaded Avery Bates with the Alabama Seafood Association.

The issue drew a large crowd of environmentalists, watch dog groups and fishing organizations from around the nation on both sides of the issue.

"What you're putting forward is something good, something good for the country, something good for the economy, something good for our future food supply for the United States," said John Ericsson, Director of the Gulf Marine Institute.

Proponents say millions of pounds of fish could be raised and harvested every year in the waters of the Gulf. But many fishermen say the plan would limit areas where they can fish.

"We don't want this plan passing. This plan is going against the will of the public and the resources of the public you're charged to protect," Lizzi said.

But in the end, the Gulf fish farming proposal passed with a vote of 11 to 5. The council's recommendation will now go to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval. He has 90 days to approve the measure.