Suit targets U.S. over fish farm permit


Steven Hedlund

Published on
August 3, 2011

Washington, D.C., environmental group Food & Water Watch (F&WW) and the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance (KAHEA) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Honolulu against the U.S. government for granting Kona Blue Water Farms the first commercial open-ocean fish farm permit issued for U.S. waters on 6 July.

According to the complaint, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service lacked the authority to grant the permit and failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of Kona Blue’s fish farm; a regional fishery management plan is required to issue the one-year permit. The complaint alleges that the agency lacks the statutory authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to issue such a permit and that it acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in doing so.

Also named in the suit are Michael Tosatto, NOAA Fisheries’ regional administrator in the Pacific Islands region; Eric Schwaab, NOAA Fisheries’ assistant administrator; and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

“The aquaculture industry, the state and now the federal government are determined to bring industrial-scale ocean factory fish farming to Hawaii, environmental risks be damned!” said F&WW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.

Kona Blue raises Seriola rivoliana, a Hawaiian yellowtail relative, off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, and markets its fish as Kona Kampachi®. Kona Blue was founded in 2001 by Dr. Dale Sarver and Neil Sims, who is also president of the Ocean Stewards Institute, an open-ocean aquaculture advocacy group.

The suit comes on the heels of Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signing into law in late July a bill that will broaden the state’s leasing process for fish farms by expanding the life of leases from 35 years to 65 years. And, in early June, NOAA Fisheries released its much-anticipated national marine aquaculture policy, which will guide agency’s fish-farming activities and provide a national approach to supporting sustainable aquaculture.

F&WW is a staunch opponent of open-ocean aquaculture, while KAHEA is a grassroots, community-based organization established to protect Hawaii’s sacred lands, native species and cultural traditions. They are represented by attorney David Lawton of Los Angeles law firm Gallagher & Gallagher.

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