SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Governor Palin Asks for Changes to Federal Fish Farm Proposal


April 05, 2007

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on Wednesday expressed her administration's objections to elements of the federal government's proposal to allow fish farms in the open ocean off of America's coasts.

"While the latest proposal is an improvement over past versions, we still want to make sure that there will be adequate protections for Alaska's world-renowned wild fisheries in the event it passes into law," Governor Palin said. "Alaska's fishing industry has had great success in recent years by extolling the virtues of our wild seafood; we must make sure that any new federal laws don't muddle this message."




The Governor was commenting on last week's announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of its support for a proposed federal bill. The federal administration's draft "National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007" would open federal waters between 3 and 200 miles off the coastline of the United States to what is known as "open ocean aquaculture," or floating fish farms. Governor Palin outlined several specific concerns that she has, based on extensive public comment from Alaskans in recent years, including:

  • marketplace confusion about Alaska's healthy, wild seafood resulting in lost fisheries value;
  • disease and parasite transmission;
  • escapes/releases leading to potential colonization and genetic impacts; and
  • environmental effects.

The Governor has asked Alaska's Congressional delegation to include provisions in the Aquaculture Act to prevent potential damage to the state's fisheries. The Palin administration is requesting that the legislation include a five-year moratorium on new offshore aquaculture development until environmental and socio-economic impacts are adequately evaluated.

"The moratorium is needed because the potential impacts of offshore aquaculture to the environment and to our wild capture fisheries are so great," said Governor Palin. "During the moratorium, the federal government should do scientific research and analyze the socio-economic effects on Alaska's communities and economy."

She said the Department of Commerce should authorize only experimental aquaculture operations in support of this research and analysis during this five-year period.

Governor Palin is also asking for the federal legislation to provide for meaningful roles for states and Regional Fishery Management Councils (RFMCs), such as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Vesting authority with RFMCs would address important interstate considerations, such as the concerns one state may have about the aquaculture activities in an adjacent state. While the draft legislation provides for states to "opt out" of offshore aquaculture, it apparently doesn't provide for anything other than totally in or totally out. Some states may choose, for example, to engage in shellfish aquaculture, but not finfish. The bill needs to be modified to allow this kind of flexibility. The state is recommending that the language be changed so that states may "opt in" to offshore aquaculture development rather than be required to "opt out" of it.

The Governor is also requesting statutory prohibitions on the production of specific major wild capture species, particularly salmon, halibut and sablefish, to prevent the tainting of Alaska's branding image.

"We have had great success in our efforts to establish wild Alaska salmon as a high-value brand," said Palin.

This branding is based, in part, on Alaska's reputation for natural, wild fish. The introduction of farmed fish into the Alaska environment, whether through farming or escapements, puts this branding at risk.

Additionally, Governor Palin is asking the delegation to include, in the federal bill, language to mitigate the impacts of global aquaculture on major wild capture species. As the federal government works to promote and build the farmed fish industry, which will compete with the wild capture industry, it should develop programs that maintain or increase the economic vitality of the existing fisheries. The growth of fish farming worldwide has caused a reduction in the market value of Alaska's wild fish in the last decade. To mitigate similar downfalls in the future, programs should be implemented that focus on market and product diversification for wild capture fisheries, with an emphasis on highlighting the important characteristics of wild seafood. These types of programs may provide improvement to harvesting and processing infrastructure, quality improvement investments, value-added equipment, and marketing funds.

The Governor also expressed concern with other aspects of the draft bill, including what she feels are inadequate permit requirements as well as enforcement and sanction issues. She looks forward to working with concerned Alaskans and Congress to assure the protection and sustainability of Alaska's wild capture fisheries and markets.



Source of News:

Office of the Governor


E-mail your news & photos to

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2007
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska