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Senator Gregg a Bad Choice for Commerce Secretary
Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director
"The Secretary of Commerce is charged with overseeing agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that implement ocean and fisheries policies crucial to protecting the marine environment and coastal communities. With the economy in dire straits, and increasing reports of overfishing and degradation of marine resources, we cannot afford to have Senator Gregg be nominated and appointed.
"Senator Gregg openly backed federal funding from NOAA for an experimental ocean aquaculture facility in New Hampshire. He, like other proponents of the industry, projects U.S. ocean fish farms will benefit the public and provide new jobs. However, we can look abroad to make a compelling case that ocean fish farming could hurt the United States at this time.
"Many conservation groups, scientists, recreational and commercial fishermen are concerned with the potential threats to human health, the marine environment, and fishing communities posed by offshore aquaculture. Documented problems include water pollution, escaped farmed fish intermixing with or overtaking wild fish, transmission of diseases and parasites from farmed to wild fish, and the need for use of wild fish in feeds.
"Ocean fish farms are also likely to reduce jobs, causing economic problems for coastal communities. In British Columbia, Scotland and Norway, the salmon-farming industry dramatically expanded production, but created no new jobs, and in some cases, employment decreased due to increased mechanization. Worse than not fulfilling the promise of providing new jobs, ocean fish farms are likely to outcompete and ultimately replace traditional fishing, causing widespread job losses. As the number of fishermen dwindles, support businesses, like marine supply stores and dock facilities, will also suffer, risking more job loss and hurting economies of coastal communities.
"While offshore aquaculture is not yet common in the United States, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional bodies that help manage fisheries, approved a plan last week to allow fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico, despite overwhelming public opposition. This could be the beginning of a dangerous trend in U.S. waters, especially if Senator Gregg is at the helm of the Commerce Department, which oversees such policy decisions.
"If President Obama intends to truly change and reverse Bush's dismal legacy on the environment, he should not choose Senator Gregg as Commerce Secretary. It would be a controversial and unpopular choice that will undoubtedly cause more problems than benefits."