12 March 2007

Are Fish Farms the Answer?

I like fish. But we have more fish eaters than fish. It has recently been estimated that the ocean stock has been reduced by 90% over the last 50 years. That is not a misprint... ninety percent.

Going out farther into the ocean is a short term solution. Is aquaculture the long term answer? The Bush administration thinks so... or to be more precise, the aquaculture corporations that can afford White House access think so:

A plan being announced Monday by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez would let companies operate fish farms three miles to 200 miles offshore, but without some of the rules on size, season and harvest methods that apply to other commercial fishermen.

Globally, the $70 billion aquaculture business accounts for almost half the seafood consumed in the world today as wild fish stocks decline.

About 70 percent of all the seafood eaten in the United States comes from overseas, contributing "a trade deficit of about $9 billion in fish," Gutierrez said. Almost half is farm-raised.

There's a good example of "corporate-think" in this initiative. Aquaculture operations which generate waste which enters U.S. waterways are regulated by the EPA and FDA as well as other federal and state agencies. But this plan specifically wants offshore farming operations to be exempt from similar regulation. "Trust us," say the corporations:

The administration wants Congress to pass legislation that would let the Commerce Department issue 20-year permits to companies that raise fish in deep ocean waters. The permits would exempt companies from regulations that apply to other commercial fishermen and are intended to restrict size, season and harvest methods.

'We believe we can do it in a way that is environmentally sound, that makes sense for our economy..." Gutierrez told The Associated Press.

I think aquaculture is an option that should be expanded, but c'mon... how seriously am I supposed to take an animal farm promising sound environmental practices?

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