FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aquapods in Alenuihaha Trigger Lawsuit
Watchdog groups sue NOAA for issuing “fishing permit” for industrial fish farming
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Marti Townsend, 808-372-1314
Honolulu (August 3, 2011) – A lawsuit filed today in Hawai`i's Federal District Court challenges a fishing gear permit issued to Kona Blue Water Farm by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for its open ocean aquaculture “aquapods.” Local watchdog group, KAHEA, and D.C.-based group, Food & Water Watch, filed the lawsuit to address the misapplication of commercial fishing regulations to industrial aquaculture activities.
“Industrial aquaculture equipment is not “fishing gear” by any stretch of the imagination,” said Marti Townsend of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. “Industrial aquaculture has distinct effects on the health of our ocean resources. These facilities do not belong in our federal waters. But if they are to be permitted they need their own specific regulations, not this kind of ‘force it to fit’ approach to regulation and resource management.”
“There is a process for making these kinds of decisions,” Townsend added. “NMFS has no excuse for not following the established process for regulating new uses of our collective ocean resources.”
According to the complaint, under federal law, the defendants can only issue a fishing permit if authorized to do so under a regional Fishery Management Plan, which they were not. The complaint points out that defendants lacked the statutory authority to issue a fishing permit for Kona Blue’s aquaculture venture and states that they “acted outside their authority and arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing it.”
The complaint also accuses NMFS of failing to adequately assess the environmental impacts in violation of federal law.
Industrial aquaculture operations in Hawai`i have damaged the environment, interfered with traditional and customary practices of Native Hawaiians, and pushed for the privatization of public trust ocean resources. Around the world, industrial aquaculture has contributed to the decline of wild fish stocks and water pollution.
The aquapods released last month are not the first to be released into Hawai`i’s oceans. In March, Kona Blue Water attempted to launch two aquapods into the Alenuihaha Channel ahead of receiving its “fishing gear” permit, but immediately lost both aquapods at sea due to rough waters. One aquapod washed ashore, the other is still lost at sea.
“This is exactly why the open ocean aquaculture industry is dangerous for our oceans,” said Townsend. “Thanks to Kona Blue’s unregulated aquaculture activities, we now have more marine debris in the ocean, causing who knows what kind of harm to our ocean resources. This shouldn’t be allowed.”