Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.) introduced legislation last Friday that would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and regional fishery management councils from permitting offshore aquaculture under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act. The measure would invalidate existing permits and put future proposals for offshore fish farming on hold until Congress passes new legislation to oversee deepwater aquaculture.
The legislation has a powerful ally in Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), whose panel oversees fisheries issues. Rahall was one of three original co-sponsors of the bill. Environmental groups Ocean Conservancy and Food and Water Watch have also endorsed it.
The debate over whether to allow fish to be raised in deepwater nets and cages has heated up since a fishery management council approved what would be the first large permitting system earlier this year. The council used its authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act to make the decision in late January.
The gulf fisheries council developed its plan after lawmakers failed to advance a national permit system that the Bush administration pushed over the past three years. Rahall and other lawmakers rejected the Bush administration’s proposal for not including enough safeguards for the environment and native fish.