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Daily News Blog

15
Jun

Take Action: Tell Congress to Save Our Oceans from Trump’s Executive Order

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2020)  On May 7, President Trump issued an executive order (EO) purporting to “promote American seafood competitiveness and economic growth,” while, in fact, permitting offshore aquaculture in federal waters with reduced environmental safeguards. Instead, we need stronger federal regulation in order to protect the environment and public health.

This EO adds to the Trump Administration’s shameful record of dismantling environmental protections, failing to enforce those that do exist, undermining science, and weighing agrochemical and other industry interests over those of the public and the environment. The EO will further erode regulations that have governed the operation of so-called “fish farms” and open enormous marine areas to exploitation by this industry.

Tell Congress to save our oceans.

U.S. aquaculture is a $1.5 billion industry, with almost 3,000 operations. Regulation of aquaculture is shared by a number of federal, state, and local agencies. Much of the regulation is at the state and local level because each state and locality may regulate permitting based on zoning, water use, waste discharge, wildlife management, processing, and other aspects of aquaculture operations. 

Trump’s EO reduces federal regulation by designating the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the lead agency in the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone, the ocean waters spanning from three to 200 miles of the U.S. coastline. Prior to this EO, such facilities were not permitted in this zone. The EO shortens timelines for federal decisions to 90 days for drafting of a permit, and two years for environmental review. Center for Food Safety lead counsel George Kimbrell said in a Seattle Times article, “NOAA [has] wanted to do this sort of industrial [aquaculture] permitting not just in the Gulf of Mexico but in the Pacific and along the Atlantic coast.” NOAA has also pursued rulemaking for the industry in waters off of Hawaii and other Pacific islands. 

The order cites the need for “removing outdated and unnecessarily burdensome regulations,” reducing “burdens on domestic fishing,” and increasing production. However, federal regulations are needed to address collapsing fisheries, rebuilding fish stocks, and guiding the industry in a more sustainable direction. Even without this order, oceans are rapidly losing biodiversity due to global climate change, pollution, overfishing, and by-catch. 

The environmental impacts of coastal and offshore aquaculture include the pollution from fish farm effluent, antibiotic and pesticide inputs and residues, impacts on local marine ecosystems, coastal habitat loss, and genetic and health risks to wild marine populations. Pesticides may contaminate the ocean through the use of insecticides to control sea lice in farmed salmon or from residues in farmed fish food pellets. In addition, the high-density environment of the fish pen increases the likelihood of disease, which can infect wild populations; nets and other gear cause injury or death to wild creatures who get entangled in them; and the waste from net pens can add significant sources of organic matter into coastal ecosystems, potentially altering the local food chain, depleting the water of oxygen, and generating toxic algal blooms. Furthermore, feed for farmed fish is dependent on wild-caught fish as an input.

Meanwhile, with global supply chains in disarray and so many restaurants closed, there is no way to process, store, or sell more product—an economic disruption that will not be remedied by increasing supply. 

The federal government should implement strong safeguards on the industry that avoid harmful impacts on wild marine fish stocks and other organisms, reduce water pollution, eliminate the use of pesticides in aquaculture, and prevent habitat destruction. Investment in ocean and coastal habitat restoration and improved, science-based monitoring and management of fisheries and aquaculture enterprises are also needed. 

Tell Congress to save our oceans.

Thank you!
The Beyond Pesticides Team

Letter to Congress

On May 7, President Trump issued an executive order (EO) purporting to “promote American seafood competitiveness and economic growth,” while, in fact, permitting offshore aquaculture in federal waters with reduced environmental safeguards. Instead, we need stronger federal regulation in order to protect the environment and public health.

This EO adds to the Trump administration’s shameful record of dismantling environmental protections, failing to enforce those that do exist, undermining science, and weighing agrochemical and other industry interests over those of the public and the environment. The EO will further erode regulations that have governed the operation of so-called “fish farms,” and open enormous marine areas to exploitation by this industry.

Oceans cover 71% of Earth’s surface and hold about 97% of the planet’s water. Phytoplankton provide 50% of Earth’s oxygen, and the ocean is a vast sink for carbon dioxide. Regardless of whether we eat fish and shellfish, we need our oceans to be healthy in order to survive. Even without this EO, our oceans are threatened. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

  • By the year 2100, without significant changes, more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction.
  • Today, 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably.
  • Increased atmospheric CO2, as it dissolves in the oceans, acidifies them and threatens plankton, the basis of oceanic food chains. Acidification can corrode coral reefs and the shells of mollusks.
  • Commercial overexploitation of the world’s fish stocks is so severe that it has been estimated that up to 13 percent of global fisheries have ‘collapsed.’

In the face of these threats—and others—to the oceans, it is important that we not backslide any further. Instead of promoting further industrial exploitation and pollution of the oceans, we need regulation of aquaculture that:

  • Prohibits the use of pesticides and antibiotics;
  • Prohibits genetically engineered fish and shellfish;
  • Prohibits the use of plastic in net pens and other structures;
  • Prohibits overcrowding that leads to parasites and diseases in net pens; and
  • Requires protection of the benthos (organisms living at the bottom of the water body) in shellfish operations.

In addition, more Marine Protected Areas are essential to conserve the biodiversity of the oceans and to maintain productivity, especially of fish stocks.

Please act to strengthen protections for our oceans.

Thank you.

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One Response to “Take Action: Tell Congress to Save Our Oceans from Trump’s Executive Order”

  1. 1
    T Mo Says:

    please do the right thing for all of creation.

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