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February 4, 2014

Technological innovation has made it possible to grow marine finfish in the open ocean sustainably according to a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

         Specific types of fish farming can be done with minimal or no harm to the coastal ocean environment as long as proper planning and safeguards are in place, according to the report titled “Marine Cage Culture and The Environment,” out of NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

         The study evaluated the environmental effects of finfish aquaculture, including interactions with water quality, benthic habitats, and marine life across various farming practices and habitat types, scientists at the Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) explain.

         “We did this study because of concerns that putting marine finfish farms in the coastal ocean could have adverse effects on the environment,” said Dr. James Morris, NCCOS ecologist. “We found that in cases where farms are appropriately sited and responsibly managed, impacts to the environment are minimal to non-existent,” he stated in a press release announcing the new report.

         In the report, scientists said that continued development of regional best-management practices and standardized protocols for environmental monitoring are key needs for aquaculture managers. As aquaculture development increases in the coastal ocean, the ability to forecast immediate or long-term environmental concerns will provide confidence to coastal managers and the public.

         “This report provides coastal and farm managers with a global perspective on a range of potential environmental effects and their relative intensity,” said Dr. Michael Rubino, director of NOAA’s Fisheries Office of Aquaculture. “It is a tool that can be used when evaluating proposed or operational farming sites and gives them a factual basis to make decisions.”

         In the Executive Summary of the report, NOAA scientists say there is an opportunity to apply the best available science and globally proven best management practices to regulate and guide a sustainable US marine finfish farming aquaculture industry.

         For more information and a copy of the report go to the NOAA news website www.noaanews.noaa.gov

- Erich Luening

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February 4, 2014

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