Thursday, April 10, 2008

Industrial Fish Farms in the Gulf of Mexico Questioned

An article Monday in The Times-Picayune by Chris Kirkham states that federal fisheries regulators are meeting in Baton Rouge this week to debate the ecological sustainability of large-scale, industrial fish farms off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It is hoped that such a plan will help redress the balance of the trade deficit in seafood. Currently, America imports 80% of the seafood consumed in this country and more concern has been shown recently by consumers about imported seafood, particularly from China. There is evidence that farm-raised seafood from China, particularly shrimp, are tainted with banned antibiotics and other chemicals.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States currently has a seafood trade deficit of over $9 billion annually. Some fish farming does occur in the U.S., generating about $1 billion income, two-thirds of which comes from the farming of oysters, clams and mussels. Another 10% is generated by shrimp production.

In an article dated April 8, 2008, posted at about a new study titled "Fish Story: Why Offshore Fish Farming Will Not Break U.S. Dependence on Imported Seafood," it is argued that large-scale farming will not affect the trade deficit in seafood. As stated in the article:
"According to the report, the United States exports more than 70 percent of its seafood to countries where it fetches the best prices. In turn, U.S. retailers buy their seafood from wherever they can get it cheapest, oftentimes in places with lower quality and health standards, such as China and Thailand."
According to the study, over half of domestic demand for seafood can be satisfied with current United States production, cutting down the necessity of importing seafood.

There are fears that large-scale fish farming might harm the environment and the economy. At, in an article dated October 25, 2007, Sal Versaggi of Versaggi Shrimp Company and the Southern Shrimp Alliance argues that the issue is larger than the economic problems aquaculture production would address:
"People are so personally and economically linked with the ocean and coasts here - residents and visitors alike enjoy boating, fishing, seafood, swimming and so many more benefits. These are important and need to be safeguarded from the threats associated with offshore aquaculture."
SOURCE: "Fish farm plans under scrutiny" 04/07/08
SOURCE: "Aquaculture in the United States" 03/19/08
SOURCE: "Ocean Fish Farms Will Not Eliminate Seafood Trade Deficit" 04/08/08
SOURCE: "Offshore Aquaculture in Gulf of Mexico "May Yield Economic Distress" 10/25/07
photo courtesy of ewen and donabel, used under this Creative Commons license

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