Recreational fishing may get displaced by aquaculture/mariculture if we don’t give current government plans close scrutiny. NOAA/NMFS, federal Fishery Management Councils, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environment Protection Agency are focusing on and providing federal funding for aquaculture/mariculture. The first two regions currently being evaluated for suitability include waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Southern California.
Beginning in 2016 when the U.S. seafood trade deficit hit $14 billion, pressure began and is growing to cultivate the nation out of the seafood deficit. Honorable thought, but some reduction in the seafood trade deficit could come at the expense of recreational fishing, forage species and water quality. NOAA/NMFS even questions in its proposal to open the 20 year Closed Zones in the Gulf of Mexico and off Florida’s and South Carolina’s east coast whether they contributed to the seafood trade deficit.
At no point is the government making recreational fishing and protecting habitat for species important to our industry a priority. Recent litigation in the Gulf of Mexico found that the NMFS does not have the authority to manage aquaculture/mariculture under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. But that is not slowing down federal plans to permit farms in the future. Please stay tuned to TBF to help counter the new thrusts from harming recreational fishing.