Appeals court: NOAA can’t make rules for offshore fish farms


A federal appeals court in New Orleans has upheld a decision that throws out rules regulating fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The law granting authority over fisheries to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does not also let the agency set rules for offshore fish farms, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its 2-1 decision on Monday.

The farms use enormous open-topped nets or submersible pens to raise huge numbers of fish, including tuna, salmon, seabass and cobia, out in open water.

The government says fish farming, including that on the open sea, is vital to seafood production and can both provide jobs and protect species and habitats. Opponents say huge numbers of fish confined in nets out in the ocean could hurt ocean health and native fish stocks, and the farms would drive down prices and devastate commercial fishing communities.

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