NFI Supports Offshore Aquaculture Rule


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 15, 2008

The National Fisheries Institute supports a proposed rule authorizing the Minerals Management Service to issue leases, easements and rights of way for offshore fish farms in federal waters, including on decommissioned oil platforms.

"Because aquaculture can help meet our nation's increasing demand for [seafood], NFI supports [the rule] that would provide for the alternate use of existing facilities located on the Outer Continental Shelf, including offshore aquaculture," said NFI President John Connelly in public comment submitted to the agency last week.

Wind, wave and other energy projects are also included in the rule.

As demand for farmed seafood grows, so should the need for establishing a regulatory framework for offshore aquaculture, said Connelly.

NFI emphasized the need for the MMS, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, to collaborate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other relevant agencies before approving offshore fish farm projects.

Additionally, the McLean, Va., seafood trade group stressed the need to institute a simple and affordable permitting process.

"In order for the burgeoning U.S. aquaculture industry to be successful, there must be adequate incentive for businesses to invest in start-up projects," said Connelly. "Further, business certainly is key for investors. NFI suggests an orderly, simple and predictable bonding schedule where the level of government fees is known in advance of the final permit."

However, numerous lawmakers and fishing, consumer and environmental groups oppose the rule.

Twelve congressmen, led by Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Madeline Bordallo (D-Guam), recently urged the Bush administration to eliminate the rule, contending that the MMS doesn't possess the authority or expertise to regulate offshore aquaculture. Alaska Gov. and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin is also fighting the rule, citing the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of offshore aquaculture.

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