House Bill Would Carve Oceans into Floating Factory Fish Farms

AQUAA Act paves the way for industrialization of marine waters, threatens local fishing businesses and ecosystems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) has introduced a bill that would authorize the federal government to issue permits for industrial ocean finfish farms. These facilities would use giant floating cages to cultivate fish in ocean waters all around the U.S. coast. Chemicals, diseases and untreated waste from these farms flow into the open ocean and pose environmental hazards and health risks to people and wildlife and threaten the livelihood of local fishermen and coastal communities.

The Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, H.R. 6191, faces strong opposition from the Don’t Cage Our Ocean Coalition, which consists of fishing groups, indigenous people, and organizations involved in consumer advocacy, food policy, farming and conservation. A broad coalition of groups delivered a letter to Congress before similar legislation was introduced in the Senate in 2018 calling for legislators to protect the ocean and oppose offshore fish farming.

“There is sweeping opposition to this destructive industry, and for good reason,” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Industrial ocean fish farms contaminate our waters with pharmaceutical drugs, toxic chemicals and escaped farmed fish. Other countries are backing away from the industry after realizing its devastating impacts. There is absolutely no need to bring it to the U.S., especially at a time when our nation is facing the impacts of COVID-19. While the rest of our nation focuses on urgent health concerns, the aquaculture industry is exploiting this crisis and attempting to push this harmful bill under the radar.”

“Opening federal waters to fish farming operations might be profitable for a few big businesses, but it would devastate the health of the ocean, the wild capture fishing industry, and surrounding communities,” said Shannon Eldredge, Board Member of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.

“This isn’t the first time the aquaculture industry and their friends in agribusiness have tried to push factory fish farms into U.S. waters,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Waiting a few years doesn’t make this idea any less dangerous. Congress must not allow this irresponsible bill to give away our public resources to another polluting industry.”

“Congress should stop the AQUAA Act now — this is an outdated, dangerous and unnecessary method of raising fish,” said Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of Recirculating Farms Coalition. “While increasing availability of domestic seafood for U.S. consumers is an important goal, political leaders have a responsibility to invest in more sustainable ways to produce seafood than factory-style farming in the ocean.”

“I’ve been growing soybeans in Iowa for 42 years,” said George Naylor, former president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “Using soybeans to feed factory farm livestock, whether chickens, hogs, cattle, or now fish, does not benefit family farmers. More cheap soybeans will simply be produced unsustainably in other parts of the world, such as the destructive production taking place in the precious Amazon rainforest. The AQUAA Act will only add local fishermen to the list of agribusiness victims.”

The controversial AQUAA Act would expand the scope, and indeed, defeat the purpose of the Magnuson Stevens Act — a law that was designed to conserve and manage fisheries across the country. In a pending lawsuit over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s authority to regulate offshore fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico under the Magnuson Stevens Act, a Louisiana federal court has already ruled that the statute only provides authority to the agency to regulate traditional fishing activities. The government has appealed the decision.

Contact: Kara Watkins-Chow, [email protected]
Erin Jensen, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0722, [email protected]

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