USACE Issues Permit for Industrial Finfish Facilities

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Issues Nationwide Permit for Industrial Finfish Facilities in Federal Waters, Risking Ecosystems and Livelihoods

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a nationwide permit facilitating the rapid development and construction of large-scale commercial finfish aquaculture facilities in federal waters, among other major industries. 

The permit, which takes effect on March 15, 2021, will allow corporations to speed and scale up the development of industrial fish farms. This form of aquaculture uses large, floating net pens and cages that allow pollution, like excess feed, fish waste and chemicals, to flow freely into open waters, damaging marine ecosystems and harming the local fishing communities and coastal economies that depend on them. The new rule follows the Trump administration’s executive order mandating federal agencies to fast-track development, while cutting environmental review processes and other conservation measures.

The nationwide permit may also bolster controversial pilot facilities, such as the proposed Velella Epsilon project off the coast of Sarasota.  

In response to the new rule, members of the Don’t Cage Our Ocean Coalition released the following statements:  

“Industrial finfish facilities harm wild ecosystems, risk coastal economies and threaten local fishermen’s livelihoods. President-elect Biden has already made clear that his administration will be closely scrutinizing all regulations and rulemaking when it comes to this harmful form of seafood production. The Corps’ decision to move forward anyway is both hasty and unwarranted,” said Rosanna Marie Neil, policy counsel for Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.

“Congress has authority under the Congressional Review Act to evaluate problematic agency rulemaking. This rush by the U.S. Army Corps to push development of an unwanted new finfish farming industry is appropriate for Congressional review. We urge Congress to take action so that regulations support our existing local fishing communities and seafood production businesses, rather than promoting a new, unnecessary industry to further damage our already struggling marine ecosystems,” said Marianne Cufone, Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition.

 “We will continue pushing for strong environmental oversight to protect our marine ecosystems from the growing threat of destructive industrial development. The last thing we should be doing is rubber-stamping industrial ocean fish farms. We have already seen in places like Washington, Florida, and California how controversial these facilities are. This new nationwide permitting program will only result in more harm.” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Contact: Claudia Hensley, [email protected] 

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