With all the outrages going on, it’s important to remember all the other horrible things Republicans are doing to the world that don’t get on the front pages. Such as privatizing the ocean to promote the big fishing industry.
So when President Donald Trump ordered the Commerce Department to roll back regulations on commercial fishing earlier this month, Arnesen expected some relief. But her stomach dropped as she read the May 7 executive order. The main thrust of the presidential fiat set in motion a process to open federal waters, the stretch of ocean between three to 200 miles off most U.S. coastlines, to private companies farming fish in giant pens.
“It’s such a slap in the face,” Arnesen said. “This will destroy not only my business model but thousands of other business models across the entire coastline.”
Advocates for the U.S. aquaculture industry have long argued that the world’s growing appetite for seafood demands the expansion of fish farming, from oyster beds and inland salmon ponds to open-water pens teeming with finfish. At a moment when human-induced global warming is rapidly changing life in oceans, those in this nascent sector compare offshore aquaculture to seaward wind turbines ― a tool with more benefits than tradeoffs when it comes to sustainability.
“The United States has the technology, the skilled workforce, the coastal infrastructure, and the growing market for healthy farmed seafood,” Bill DiMento, president of the pro-aquaculture business group Stronger America Through Seafood, said in a statement. “Our country needs economic stimulus ― not just in terms of immediate cash assistance, but also in the form of new job opportunities. Why not put Americans back to work in an emerging industry like aquaculture at a time when it is needed most?”
But the concern isn’t just that raising tuna or tilapia in federal waters will eat into the market share of those who currently make a living off the seas. Environmentalists say farmed fish produce concentrated pollution and risk devastating wild populations should they accidentally get turned loose in open waters.
The existing supply networks for producing the food farmed fish eat threaten to break foundational links in food chains from the Gulf to The Gambia, the small country on Africa’s west coast, jeopardizing the animals and people who have relied on the fish stocks that aquaculture companies crave.
The Trump administration’s move comes as the novel coronavirus pandemic rips through the nation’s meat supply chain. That has fueled fresh calls to drastically overhaul the meat-producing industry, whose pollution, animal cruelty and harsh treatment of workers threaten more public health crises in years to come.
“This is the nightmare scenario: Having all these factory fish farms offshore that are going to be breeding disease and causing pollution,” said Rosanna Marie Neil, the policy counsel at the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, a group that advocates for fishermen. “That’s the last thing we need right now when we’re going through a pandemic.”
As we have seen again and again, turning animals into industrial products is an environmental disaster is completely unsustainable, not to mention disastrous for the workers laboring in the system.