The first industrial-sized fish farms will be allowed to open in the Gulf of Mexico after the federal government decided Thursday to take no action on the plan.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not make a ruling because the U.S. lacks regulations for fish farming in federal waters.
Officials said the federal agency would develop and implement a national policy for offshore aquaculture - a process that could take nine months. Until then, the farms could open in the Gulf.
"Our options in a case like this are very limited, and I believe this is the best approach to the situation," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a statement.
That the agency allowed fish farms in the Gulf in the absence of a ruling troubled some environmentalists and fishing interests.
The Ocean Conservancy, for one, described the lack of action as "a dangerous precedent" and urged regulators to move quickly on a federal policy.
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