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Senators Advance Controversial Aquaculture Bill, Threatening Coastal Economies and Ecosystems

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Senators Roger Wicker (R-MO), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have introduced Senate Bill 4723, which would pave the way for the federal government to permit offshore, industrial finfish farming facilities.

This form  of aquaculture uses giant floating net pens and cages that allow pollution, like excess feed, fish waste and chemicals, to flow freely into open waters, damaging marine ecosystems and thus harming the local fishermen and coastal economies that depend on them. The Act’s introduction follows recent efforts from the Trump administration to fast-track development of this outdated and unnecessary industry.

For decades, various administrations have attempted to push offshore marine finfish aquaculture – through numerous failed federal bills, agencies overreaching authority to make regulations and most recently, through Executive Orders. Forceful public opposition and courts have prevented the industry from developing since the 1980’s.

In response to this most recent legislation introduction , members of the Don’t Cage Our Ocean Coalition issued the following statements:

“Industrial finfish aquaculture facilities harm wild ecosystems, risk coastal economies and threaten local fishermen’s livelihoods. Instead of supporting the corporate takeover of our oceans, lawmakers should safeguard the economic livelihoods of fishermen and coastal residents who are already struggling and would be disproportionately harmed by industrial aquaculture,” said Rosanna Marie Neil, policy counsel for Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.

“Congress should support sustainable seafood production with local fishermen and businesses, rather than allowing a new unwanted and unnecessary industry to pollute our already struggling ecosystems that we all depend on. It’s embarrassing that Congressional leaders are pushing this bill now, when there are so many other critical  issues that require attention,” said Marianne Cufone, Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition.

“We need strong environmental leadership from both sides of the aisle in Congress to ensure that our ecosystems remain resilient. The last thing we should be doing is allowing corporations to dump even more toxins into our oceans by rubber-stamping these dangerous developments,” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

The AQUAA Act’s introduction comes in spite of extensive opposition from environmentalists, the wild-capture fishing industry, indigenous nations and local communities. In May, the Trump administration issued an executive order to speed the development of these facilities, and federal agencies have since taken further steps to deregulate and limit environmental review.

Contact: Kara WatkinsChow, kara.watkinschow@berlinrosen.com

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