Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Don't Squeeze Us Out


March 1, 2016

Good news from Hawaii: In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a draft management plan and proposed rule regarding the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The proposal contemplated a move from a single species national marine sanctuary that focuses solely on the humpback whale and its habitat to a national marine sanctuary with an expanded boundary and broader ecosystem scope. After receiving “a great deal of input from the community,” as well as the State of Hawaii, the agency has withdrawn the proposal. NOAA says the sanctuary will “…continue in its present form, conserving and protecting humpback whales and providing needed research support and public education.”

While the responsible commercial users of Hawaiian waters dodged a bullet, Gulf Coast fishermen have not been so lucky.

Late last month, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit challenging NOAA’s new federal regulations permitting, for the first time, industrial aquaculture offshore in US federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The plaintiff coalition is made up a broad array of interests in the Gulf of Mexico, including commercial, economic, recreational, and conservation stakeholders.

Finalized in January 2016, the NOAA regulations will allow up to 20 industrial facilities and collectively 64 million pounds of fish to be produced each year in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the same amount of wild food fish currently caught from the Gulf of Mexico annually, so the farmed fish would essentially double the annual harvest and flood the market. The plaintiffs cite all the same concerns over floating net pens that opponents have raised on the West Coast, including disease, antibiotics, loss of habitat and threats to wild stocks.

The case challenges NOAA’s new rule allowing industrial aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

We’ll follow the case and keep our readers updated on the outcome, which will directly affect whether NOAA will promote the same floating fish factories on the West Coast.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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