U.S. Proposes Allowing Fish Farming up to 200 Miles off Coasts
WASHINGTON The Bush administration, seeking to tap into one of the world's fastest-growing food industries, wants to allow fish farming up to 200 miles (321.85 kilometers) off the nation's coasts.
Citing pilot projects off New Hampshire, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the administration said Tuesday it was sending a bill to Congress to establish regulations for fish farming, known as aquaculture.
Currently, fish farming in the United States focuses largely on freshwater fish such as catfish, though there also are some ocean farms raising shellfish like mussels, clams and oysters as well as shrimp and salmon.
In countries from Canada to China to Scotland to Thailand, farming of saltwater species such as salmon and shrimp has become increasingly common, with much of the catch sold in the United States.
Fish farming has drawn criticism from environmentalists, however.
Gerald Leape, vice president of marine conservation at the National Environmental Trust, issued a statement saying the proposal was "riddled with problems." He said problems with fish farms include the discharge of solid waste, the use of pesticides, antibiotics and other potentially harmful chemicals and the escape of farmed fish into the marine environment.
Seafood demand is expected to increase rapidly and officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the United States has fallen behind other countries in farming fish. Currently the United States imports 70 percent of the seafood eaten here and 40 percent is from overseas fish farms.
"Today's action will create jobs and revenues for coastal communities and U.S. businesses by allowing for the expansion of an underutilized industry," Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said in a statement.
Currently, the United States does not have a regulatory structure in place to allow aquaculture operations in federal marine waters.
Source: Associated Press