China’s first offshore fish farm is being used in Norway.
Offshore fish farms could soon join the roll out of oil and gas platforms being proposed by the Trump Administration for nearly all U.S. waters.
The fish farms are being touted as a silver bullet to boost seafood production, provide jobs and reduce the nation’s $15 billion seafood trade deficit from importing over 80 percent of its seafood.
The U.S. Commerce Department is holding meetings around the country through November to talk about its strategic plan for fish farms. New NOAA director Chris Oliver, former longtime director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said at a recent session in Juneau that wild harvests can’t keep up with global demand.
“Aquaculture is going to be where the major increases in seafood production occur whether it happens in foreign countries or in United States waters.”
Alaska bans fish farming in state waters, but the Trump push is for federally controlled waters from three to 200 miles offshore.
In an interview with CoastAlaska, Margaret Henderson of a group called Stronger America Through Seafood called Alaska’s stance a sticking point –
“We in no way mean to impede a state’s authority to manage their own waters, but when it comes to managing federal waters outside the state line we think that there’s a balance to be had there, that there’s room for both.”
Verner Wilson III of Bristol Bay, who now works for Friends of the Earth, spoke to the impacts of farmed fish to Alaska fishermen.
“The flooding of farmed salmon in the 1990s created so much hurt and pain for my family and Alaska salmon fishermen throughout the state from Bristol Bay right here to Juneau.”
Under Secretary of Commerce Timothy Gallaudet cited climate change in his pitch for fish farms.
“Some of the changes in the environment are affecting fish stocks. They are either moving or they’re not thriving and so this aquaculture, done the right way and scientifically based, provides a means for employment of fishermen who are losing some of their gain through these changing conditions.”
Sam Rabung, director of Alaska’s aquaculture division, told CoastAlaska he respectfully disagreed.
“I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to fight pretty hard to maintain the state’s opt-out option and maintain the ability to prohibit finfish farming off of Alaska.”
A bill pending in the U.S. Senate says it would provide a one-stop shop for federal approval of fish farm permits and “to the extent practicable,” avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts to the marine environment and wild fisheries.
Thanks to the audio assist from CoastAlaska.