Jeremy Alford

Fish farm oversight advances

by Jeremy Alford

Acadiana has long enjoyed local success thank to offshore oil discoveries, but a new deepwater economy could be in the works for the region — and the state is setting the foundation. Rep. Jerry “Truck” Gisclair, a Raceland Democrat, advanced legislation last week that would increase scrutiny of aquaculture projects in the Gulf of Mexico. His House Bill 488 would require offshore fish farms in the development phase to seek approval from biologists with Louisiana State University, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana University Marine Consortium. “This bill controls development in offshore waters with some legitimate oversight,” Gisclair says. “This will verify that everything is in line.”

Gisclair’s legislation includes a safety measure. It states that “no reviewer shall have ties to any permit applicant, nor shall a reviewer be involved in any grant or exercise that would directly benefit from the results of the review.”

Deepwater fish farms have become a controversial issue over the past year in Louisiana and other coastal states. A regulatory system has already been developed by the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. It calls for the farms to be contained in large underwater cages that will likely all be lumped together between three to 200 miles off Louisiana’s coast. Stocked full of live fish, the cages would be located on or near oil-and-gas rigs — so far without restrictions regarding the exact location. House members unanimously approved Gisclair’s legislation last week and it is now pending another hearing by the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which could come as early as this week.