NOAA accused over funding for industrial ocean fish farm

Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety have formally accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of violating the Endangered Species Act by funding an industrial ocean fish farm.

The two national non-profit environmental advocacy groups gave notice via a letter to federal authorities on June 5 of their intent to sue over NOAA’s Sea Grant program for awarding a federal grant to a floating factory farm for non-native steelhead trout off the coast of New Hampshire. The two non-profits contend that, according to a limited number of records gathered pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, those funds were provided without fulfillment of Endangered Species Act mandates.

The groups said that the project “will have serious adverse consequences for federally endangered and threatened species and their critical habitat, yet Sea Grant never assessed those risks in any legally required consultation with the National Marine Fisheries service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, thereby resulting in ongoing violations of the ESA.”

Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said they reminded NOAA of its federal mandate to complete environmental reviews before funding industrial ocean fish farms.

According to Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, aquaculture, or fish factory farms, cause significant environmental harms, especially from escapes, which are known to regularly occur in the open ocean. Van Saun said NOAA has a duty to protect already-imperiled species, and not spent tax dollars on projects that threaten those species further.The formal notice comes in the wake of a January 2018 letter from the two organizations that reminded NOAA of its duty to fulfill federal environmental laws prior to granting awards to industrial ocean fish farms. Once the required 60-day notice period has passed, a lawsuit will be filed over these violations, they said.