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Organizations threaten NOAA with lawsuit over industrial ocean fish farm funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety today formally accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of violating the Endangered Species Act. The groups sent a letter to NOAA notifying them of their intent to sue over NOAA’s Sea Grant program which has funded an industrial ocean fish farm in violation of federal law.

In October 2018, Sea Grant awarded a federal grant to a floating factory farm for non-native Steelhead trout off the coast of New Hampshire. According to a limited number of records gathered pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, these funds were provided without fulfillment of Endangered Species Act mandates.

“This project will have serious adverse consequences for federally endangered and threatened species and their critical habitat, yet Sea Grant never assessed those risks in any legally required consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), thereby resulting in ongoing violations of the ESA,” the groups write in the letter.

The formal notice points to a series of studies confirming that industrial ocean fish farms can have serious adverse consequences for federally endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats.

“We reminded NOAA of its federal mandate to complete environmental reviews before funding industrial ocean fish farms,” said Hallie Templeton, Senior Oceans Campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “NOAA continued to provide grants, while flouting the federal duties required by law. We will fight this with litigation to protect our endangered species and critical habitats.”

“Aquaculture, or fish factory farms, cause significant environmental harms, especially from escapes, which are known to regularly occur in the open ocean. NOAA has a duty to protect already-imperiled species, not spend tax dollars on projects that threaten those species further,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety, plaintiff and co-counsel in the case.

The formal notice of litigation follows a letter from the organizations in January 2018, which reminded NOAA of its duty to fulfill federal environmental laws prior to granting awards to industrial ocean fish farms. The organizations plan to file a lawsuit over these violations once the required 60-day notice period has passed.

Expert contact: Hallie Templeton, (434) 326-4647, htempleton@foe.org
Communications contact: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org

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