Ensnared: 21st-Century Aquaculture Law and the Coming Battle for the Ocean

May 2023
ELR 10383
George A. Kimbrell and Meredith L. Stevenson

As overfishing has depleted wild fisheries, U.S. policymakers have pushed aquaculture as an ideal paradigm for ocean fisheries. However, the public perception and myths of finfish commercial aquaculture are far from its reality. This Article examines the industrial aquaculture debate through the lens of Gulf Fishermens Ass’n v. National Marine Fisheries Service, where conservationists and fishermen challenged the first-ever rulemaking to set up a new aquaculture industry in U.S. federal waters. It gives an overview of industrial net pen aquaculture and its adverse environmental and socioeconomic impacts; offers an “aquaculture law 101” overview, providing the legal and regulatory basis; and recounts Gulf Fishermens and its ramifications for open ocean aquaculture. It then details the post-Gulf Fishermens efforts to continue to promote aquaculture development in U.S. waters and the current regulatory and litigation landscape, and concludes with “lessons learned” for the broader debate over the future of our oceans.

George A. Kimbrell and Meredith L. Stevenson are attorneys at the Center for Food Safety.

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