Commercial fishing groups, scientists, recreational fishermen and environmentalists in the Marine Fish Conservation Network (MFCN) are urging the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the meetings’ sponsor, to continue taking a cautious approach in deciding how to regulate offshore marine aquaculture in the deep waters of the Gulf.
Ray Pringle, who is both a commercial fisherman and director of the Florida Fishermen’s Federation, said, “We need to be really cautious” in allowing aquaculture in the Gulf, “It’s not been done here before ? for good reasons.”
The organizations who comprise MFCN have raised concerns about marine aquaculture that include potential contamination from feed, waste, hormones, pesticides and bacteria, and the danger that farmed fish that escape can damage the gene pool of native fish populations.
The diverse groups in the Network are concerned that aquaculture may be used as a substitute for recovery and restoration of native fish populations currently overfished and in need of management, such as the red snapper.
“Allowing marine aquaculture in the deep waters of the Gulf could seriously endanger native fish species and their habitat,” said Cyn Sarthou of the Gulf Restoration Network. “That is why we are pleased that the Gulf Council is doing this advance research, to try to prevent damage before it happens. That’s what good resource management is all about.”
And he cautioned that the entire process needs to be implemented “in small steps” because if something goes wrong or if “a gold rush” of would-be fish farmers occurs, “it’s like the snowball rolling downhill: It looks small at first, but once it gets big you can’t stop it.”
To learn more about this topic, read the NMFS scoping document: www.conservefish.org/site/codpdfs/