By Don’t Cage Our Oceans
Today, a dozen community members participated in the official delivery of 2,500 petition signatures to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This petition calls on the Biden Administration to rescind Executive Order 13921, a directive which streamlines the process for the development of fish farms in federal waters. Community members asked NOAA, the lead agency, to protect the Santa Barbara Channel and stand with local fishermen, not corporate interests.
“I fish out in the Channel almost every single day. If these fish farms are built, it would directly affect my job of putting food on Californians’ plates,” said Eric Hodge, a local commercial fisherman. “Not only would they make it harder for me to fish on a day to day basis, but these corporations could undercut me at the market as well, making it harder for me to make a living.”
Finfish farms often raise thousands of fish in moored pens, just at the start of federal waters, three miles off the coasts. These facilities pump antibiotics and pesticides into the pens to kill sea lice and other parasites, and in the process the chemicals mix with excess feed and fish waste. The result is a noxious sludge that can create toxic algae blooms in the ocean, jeopardizing the health and well-being of all sea life in those areas.
“The pollution surrounding fish farm sites such as these can create dead zones where there isn’t enough oxygen in the water to support even basic marine life,” said Katie Davis, the Chair of the Santa Barbara-Ventura Sierra Club. “These pens can entangle migrating marine mammals, such as Humpback Whales, and pose a massive risk to native fish populations. Developing fish farms off the coast of Santa Barbara is an ecological disaster just waiting to happen.”
Before the petitions were officially delivered, several speakers highlighted the risk of offshore fish farms in no uncertain terms. In addition to Eric Hodge and Katie Davis, local chef Jeremy Alben spoke to the crowd about the difference in quality between farmed and wild caught fish.
Flanking the speakers while they spoke were three lifesize headstones representing various marine animals that these farms would endanger and a sign that read “Corporate Aquaculture’s Graveyard.”
“From the devastation to our oceans that finfish farming can cause, to the fishermen that it could put out of business, this is a harmful practice and we cannot allow it to come to our backyard,” said Jake Schwartz, an Organizer with Don’t Cage Our Oceans. “We must not let these corporations get a foot in the door to take over the public resource that is the Pacific Ocean. We should be protecting and enjoying our oceans, not letting massive companies destroy them for profit.”