Protect Commercial Fisheries against Industrial Aquaculture Threats

Rein in Corporate Monopolies


Protect Commercial Fisheries against Industrial Aquaculture Threats

Industrial aquaculture facilities (fish farms) can be considered the “factory farms” of the sea, posing similar environmental and economic threats to the local ecosystem and community.

Fish farms threaten recreationally and commercially important wild fish stocks. As in land-based industrial livestock operations, industrially farmed fish are densely stocked in pens, with the primary difference being that these are floating in water. Some fish are farmed in freshwater or in inland ponds; others are raised in an offshore or open ocean environment.

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Farmed fish are bred to grow larger and more quickly than their wild counterparts, and if they escape from captivity, they can outcompete wild fish for habitat and food. Because disease can be common, these operations often rely on antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals to keep the fish alive until harvest. Pollution is a significant concern, particularly with open water operations, as uneaten feed, medication, and excrement enters the ecosystem in high volume, causing chemical and nutrient imbalance, algal blooms, and hypoxia, or so-called “dead zones.”

State jurisdiction overfishing laws extends three miles offshore. Alaska has banned commercial finfish farming within its three-mile state limit. Federal waters extend from three to 200 miles offshore, regulated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). All 35 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories (except Alaska) participate in the National Coastal Zone Management Program (NCZMP), in which each state or territory administers its own coastal management plan under NOAA’s guidance and approval. Each state’s management plan provides consistency between federal and state agency decisionmaking for the coastal region, and local governments rely on the plans to make decisions impacting a coastal area. State policymakers can communicate with their NCZMP administering agencies that industrial aquaculture does not belong in federal waters.

Policy Priorities

  1. State Coastal Zone Management Programs should not include industrial-scale aquaculture and should instead prioritize the health of wild fish stocks, ecosystem integrity, and the livelihoods of independent fishing communities. 

State Examples

  • Alaska (AS 16.40.210) bans commercial finfish farming within its state waters.