AK Congressman Don Young at his DC office                          Credit: Anchorage Daily News

Congressman Don Young helped toss out foreign fishing fleets from Alaska waters in 1976 and he wants to do the same with offshore fish farms.

“I’m trying to keep all fish farms off the Alaskan shores, that’s the big thing. It’s not just finfish there, it’s flatfish too, because they’ve got to feed them and it will contaminate our waters. And I don’t know who’s going to be involved in it. I’m supporting the state waters production of shellfish and kelp, but I’m not supporting the idea of finfish off our shores in Alaska.”

This month, Young introduced the Keep Fin Fish Free Act that aims to stop the Trump Administration’s push to plop industrialized fish farming operations in waters from three to 200 miles out.

“The biggest selling power we have in Alaska is wild caught salmon and other fish products and I don’t want that hurt. If we put in a commercial operation, offshore, outside of State jurisdiction we’d have a big problem in selling our wild Alaskan salmon.”

The fish farms are touted as a silver bullet to boost seafood production, provide jobs and reduce the $15 billion seafood trade deficit that comes from the US importing 85 percent of its seafood.

“But we shouldn’t weaken our natural system to try to feed our appetite. We should try to increase our natural system and make sure we have more finfish and I’m confident we can do that.”

Congressman Young’s bill comes in response to a group of over 120 aquaculture and food-related industries asking lawmakers to introduce an Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act.

Their new trade group called  Stronger America Through Seafood includes Cargill, Red Lobster, Pacific Seafoods and Seattle Fish Company. 

Young said the AQUAA Act does not have support from other coastal states and it has not resurfaced yet in the Senate by its Mississippi sponsor. He believes he’s got the backing to Keep Fin Fish Free –

“My goal is to try to keep Alaskan fish the best and be able to advertise and sell them and I’ve got pretty good support from this legislation.  It will be opposed by NOAA and those big companies that want to have access to other fish than wild caught. Again, I’m supportive of the shellfish and kelp industries because I do think that’s a great asset to the state of Alaska but it’s within state waters and they have control over it. I don’t want the federal government having controlling it.”