Yesterday, an unusual coalition of fishing and public interest groups, represented by the Center for Food Safety, won a lawsuit challenging the Department of Commerce's rules that would have permitted, for the first time, industrial finfish farms offshore in U.S. waters.
"This is a landmark victory for protecting our oceans, for fishing communities and conservationists," said George Kimbrell, CFS Legal Director and lead counsel in the case. "Allowing industrial net-pen aquaculture and its known environmental harms in the Gulf of Mexico was a grave threat. Very simply, as the Court properly held, aquaculture is not 'fishing.' Such harm cannot be allowed under existing fisheries law never intended for that purpose."
The rules challenged in the lawsuit focused on the Gulf of Mexico, but also could have paved the way for fish farm permits all around the U.S. The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that existing fisheries management laws were never intended to regulate aquaculture (the farming of fish in pens or cages), concluding that the Department of Commerce "acted outside of its statutory authority…"