Revised Bill Opens Gulf to More Pollution

Reader Contribution by Adam Lafferty

As the oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico passes the 100-day mark, Congress is set to vote on the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act of 2009, a bill designed to promote clean energy and increase safety standards for offshore drilling and other aquatic industries, as well as instituting a Gulf restoration program. However, the non-profit sustainable food organization Food & Water Watch reports that Democratic leaders have relented to political pressure and have removed provisions of the bill which would ban the practice of offshore aquaculture, or industrial fish farming, in the Gulf.

Industrial fish farming is a mass-production method which involves keeping fish in floating cages or pens in open waters, where they eat, excrete and grow in crowded conditions, which like land-based industrial farming, would create the need for chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics which are harmful to consumers as well as the environment. Offshore aquaculture is more prevalent overseas, where it’s controversial because of the ecological and socioeconomic damage it has caused. Currently there are no industrial fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico, but some companies are lobbying for permission to enter there.

The expansion of offshore aquaculture has become a little-known yet serious environmental threat over the past decade, and the CLEAR Act was intended to ban or regulate practices which may damage the environment while also promoting more accountable industry. If this revised bill passes, industrial fish farming stands to profit from an area that has already seen enough environmental damage in the past few months.