Bush seeks expansion of offshore fish farms
Plan stirs debate about balancing demand, environmental impact
By ROBERT McCLURE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Calling fish farming a potential boon for consumers and the economy, the Bush administration yesterday proposed to massively expand the practice to waters as far as 200 miles offshore.
Supporters in Washington, including a state senator who advocates for fish farmers, urged Congress to bless the idea. They said a likely result -- if fish-culturing methods can be perfected -- would be a cheap source of ocean-grown delights...
Critics answered that the aquaculture build-up is a get-rich-quick scheme destined to leave taxpayers subsidizing an industry that would pollute the ocean, serve up substandard fish and, ultimately, center its economic activity in Third World nations.
[...] "We can create new jobs. This is going to generate more money for coastal communities and the economy of the United States," said Susan Buchanan of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which wants to promote and regulate aquaculture from 3 to 200 miles offshore. Waters closer to shore are regulated by states.
Ooh, if you combine the Bush Administration's reputaion on environmental issues with their trank record of job creation -- I'm sold! This won't net (pun intended, sorry) any jobs, it will put traditional fisherman out of business, and these nasty-ass fish farms will be manned by a relative few "attendants." And any money generated will surely be funneled off to some giant agri-corporation thousands of miles away from the Pacific Northwest, rather than lavished upon the soon to be decimated fishing villages.
As this country's wild fish runs have been harvested to excess, federal fisheries authorities increasingly have viewed fish farming as the way out of a difficult dilemma.
At current consumption rates, the nation's annual seafood needs are expected to increase by one-third, to 8 million metric tons, by 2025.
"If we can't get our act together, we're going to keep importing seafood," said Michael Rubino, manager of aquaculture programs for the Fisheries Service. "Nutritionists are asking us to eat twice as much seafood. ... How do we do that? That's a challenge for us."
Yeah, jackass, it's a particular challenge since another federal agency (EPA) is warning not to eat more than a serving of many wild fish a month. Nineteen states have issued consumption warnings for ALL inland lakes and rivers (link). And farmed fish is many, many times as contaminated as wild fish, it's just under the FDA's jurisdiction (and unregulated) instead of the EPA. You can be sure this clown Rubino is fresh from Van de Kamps or some giant fish industry lobbying group, where he will promptly return when Bush's term is up or this plan starts making his former (and future) employer rich, whichever comes first
"Any time you have a confined feedlot operation, you're going to have disease and pathogens and parasites, so you're always medicating for your weakest animal -- whereas in nature, that animal would die and become part of the food chain," said Anne Mosness... Mosness, who fished for salmon in Alaska for 28 years, worries that producing enough salmon in fish farms will give politicians an excuse to discontinue environmental-protection efforts designed to make Northwest rivers more welcoming to salmon.
What? The Bush Administration deliberately undermine environmental practices to benefit big business? I'm shocked you would even think such a thing!
But all of that is not even the worst part (to me). This is:
[Neiwert]: As it happens, those antibiotics are spread openly to the open sea, since some 75 percent of it, spread into the pens, actually escapes. This introduces into the wild marine environment new strains of resistant diseases that can devastate whole populations, both farmed and wild.
That's not all they're spreading into the wild. The salmon pens are also spreading sea lice and other diseases to wild salmon.
And then there are the farmed salmon themselves, which often escape, usually in larger numbers than the industry will admit. These are Atlantic salmon, an alien species. They are also notoriously aggressive toward the salmonids of other species -- that is, they selectively pursue and eat them. (This is probably why, in the Atlantic, there is only one species of salmon, compared to the five species that naturally prowl the Pacific.) And, in the wild, these Atlantic salmon have begun to breed and displace the wild Pacific salmon stocks.
Nature is tricky and delicate and really shouldn't be messed with. Did you ever learn about salmon in school? How they swim out to the ocean and return hundreds of miles upriver to the spot where they were born to spawn? It's incredible stuff. Well kiss it all goodbye for the short-term needs of a voracious country and the greed of industry. There's no way to anticipate the damage this could do until it's too late, and the people making these plans know that, they just don't fucking care. In twenty years will we have only Atlantic salmon in the Pacific as well? Here in the Great Lakes region, there is a constant struggle to contain/repel alien species that enter the lake system and literally wipe out native species. How many times has somebody's brilliant short-term idea wreaked ecological havoc?
I love salmon. It's a relatively newly acquired taste for me, and I consider it a treat, so I'm willing to pay a bit of a premium for quality. I realize populations and demands are growing, and expense is an issue. Solutions need to be found. But I don't trust the Bush EPA, FDA or industry to come up with a good long-term strategy any further than I could throw them into a PCB-ridden river.
More here, and John Cole chimes in here.