Thursday, October 18 , 2018, 5:25 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Capps Introduces Comprehensive Offshore Aquaculture Legislation

The bill would establish a regulatory framework for development that addresses environmental, social and economic concerns

Last week, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, introduced landmark legislation — the National Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2011 (House Resolution 2373) — that for the first time would establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for offshore aquaculture development that takes a balanced approach to environmental, social and economic concerns.

The legislation also would establish a research program to address important data gaps and ensure that offshore aquaculture development proceeds in an ecologically sustainable fashion.

Currently, there are no national policies or laws governing how this method of offshore fish farming should be regulated in America’s territorial waters, which generally begin three miles from the coastline. Ocean fish farming poses a host of unique environmental and socioeconomic challenges that the nation’s fishing law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was not designed to address.

While the recently released Department of Commerce and NOAA Aquaculture Policies are a step in the right direction, overarching, legally binding national standards — which can only be provided by new federal law — are needed to ensure that aquaculture proceeds in a responsible manner and protects the oceans from harm. Strong, enforceable rules are needed to protect the oceans from potential environmental impacts of marine aquaculture and to effectively chart a path where aquaculture complements, rather than competes with, our nation’s proud fishing heritage.

“My legislation represents a huge step forward in our efforts to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for offshore aquaculture development that balances environmental, social and economic concerns,” Capps said. “I believe that by working together we can create a common-sense framework that ensures that offshore aquaculture development proceeds in an ecologically sustainable fashion. Developing these guidelines has the potential to preserve the integrity of our fragile ocean ecosystems, meet the increasing consumer demand for seafood, reduce stress on wild fish populations and create jobs here at home.

“We have a good model for doing this in my home state of California, which enacted landmark legislation on this topic. I believe this type of balanced, comprehensive and precautionary approach will work in California, and my legislation seeks to accomplish similar goals at the national level. My bill is fully consistent with the president’s call to use coastal and marine spatial planning to minimize user conflicts and protect ecosystems from harm, in accordance with the newly established National Ocean Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts and Great Lakes. If marine aquaculture, especially of ocean fish, is to be part of our country’s sustainable seafood supply, our nation must have a regulatory system in place that is capable of addressing the host of unique challenges that aquaculture poses.”

Capps’ legislation addresses these concerns by establishing an overarching, federal regulatory system for offshore aquaculture that includes standardized, precautionary measures to protect the environment and coastal communities.

The key provisions of the legislation include:

» Establishing a clear, streamlined regulatory process for offshore aquaculture with specific provisions and permit terms to protect marine ecosystems and coastal communities.

» Requiring coordinated, regional programmatic environmental impact statements to provide regulatory certainty, ensure environmental protection for sensitive marine areas, and reduce conflicts among competing uses of the marine environment.

» Authorizing new funds for research to provide the crucial feedback needed for adaptive, environmentally- and socioeconomically-sound management of this new use of offshore waters.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

 

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