Commercial and Recreational Fishermen and Renowned Scientist Join With Food & Water Watch For Hill Briefing on Ocean Fish Farming and Alternate Approaches

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Marianne Cufone
Erica Schuetz
(202) 683-2500

Commercial and Recreational Fishermen and Renowned Scientist Join With Food & Water Watch For Hill Briefing on Ocean Fish Farming and Alternate Approaches

WASHINGTON -  Today, at 11:30 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2103, Food
& Water Watch joined with other fish experts for a briefing on the
socioeconomic and ecological effects of open-ocean fish farming and
alternate, more sustainable approaches to domestic seafood production.
The briefing was in preparation for the House Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife’s “Oversight
Hearing on Offshore Aquaculture” tomorrow at 10 a.m.

The
panelists included Tad Burke, a recreational fishermen from the Florida
Keys; Paula Terrel, a commercial fisherman and representative of Alaska
Marine Conservation Council; Martin Schreibman, PhD, distinguished
professor emeritus, founder and director emeritus of the Aquatic
Research & Environmental Assessment Center at Brooklyn College; and
Marianne Cufone, Esq., director of the Food & Water Watch Fish
Program. The panelists discussed risks associated with open ocean
aquaculture and emphasized that the federal government should not
facilitate the operation of ocean fish farms in U.S waters, given the
many ecological and economic problems related to the practice
worldwide. Rather, the panelist encouraged the U.S. to focus on an
already developed and continuously improving technology to grow fish in
re-circulating closed loop systems on land.

Ocean fish farming,
or “offshore aquaculture,” is the mass production of fish in
flow-through net pens or cages in ocean waters three to 200 miles
offshore. It can cause damage to surrounding marine environments,
produce lower-quality fish for consumers, and undercut the earnings of
U.S. fishermen. It also does not solve problems with overfishing, as
wild fish are usually required to produce the feed for ocean-farmed
fish.

“There is no reason to push development of a potentially
harmful new industry in U.S. federal waters.” said Marianne Cufone,
Food & Water Watch’s Fish Program director. “National Marine
Fisheries Service and other agencies should promote innovative
approaches to increased domestic seafood production with fewer negative
impacts, such as land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems.”

Re-circulating
aquaculture systems (often called “RAS”) are closed-loop facilities
that retain and treat the water within the system. They can reduce
discharge of waste, the need for antibiotics or chemicals used to
combat disease and fish and parasite escapes. RAS are not connected to
open waters. Because it is highly unlikely that fish can escape the
closed system, RAS can be used to grow a wide range of plants and fish
without threatening the environment or competing with fishermen who
make their living selling popular local fish.
“If there is a need to
increase domestic seafood supply and supplement wild caught fish, then
closed containment systems should be considered along with other
possible approaches. This has not been addressed in any legislation or
discussions of offshore aquaculture as an alternative to open ocean
facilities,” said Paula Terrel, an Alaska commercial fisherman.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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