Tag: fish farming

MSU Extension Has No Business Supporting the Privatization of the Great Lakes

Although proponents of Great Lakes aquaculture say it can be done without compromising the lakes, accidents have led tribes and First Nations peoples to call for a shutdown of Atlantic salmon net-pen farming along the West Coast of North America. photo: NOAA


It would be hard to imagine Michigan State University Extension studying how to accommodate corporate factory farms on the campus grounds or private fish farm cages in the Red Cedar River that passes through. And yet MSU Extension is promoting its view in articles and at trade conferences that the public waters of the Great Lakes are a great place for private fish farming.

The extension service’s latest message on aquaculture describes how to reduce the likelihood that private fish farms would spread disease, trigger algae outbreaks, or weaken genetic diversity among native fish in the Great Lakes. The research is misplaced – literally. Instead of trying to help private companies minimize their damage while occupying public waters, MSU Extension should turn its focus to helping grow the aquaculture industry on private property not relying on the Great Lakes or their navigable tributaries.

Public Trust Law Prohibits Great Lakes Fish Farms

In legislative testimony and public outreach, FLOW has maintained that, by definition, concentrated fish farms occupying navigable waters of the Great Lakes are subject to public trust law and would directly violate Michigan’s public trust obligation to manage and protect these waters for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

As FLOW has outlined in its recent Great Lakes fish farming issue brief, the use of public waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes, or tributary navigable waters, for the occupancy and operation of concentrated fish production raises substantial legal, environmental, aquatic-resource, and water-use impact issues, including:

  1. Exclusion of public access and occupancy of bottomlands for private purposes, impairing the public rights of boating, fishing, swimming, drinking water, and other forms of paramount public uses protected by public trust law;
  2. Likely impacts from wastes, including pharmaceuticals, and nutrient loading, and;
  3. Escaped fish competing with wild fish for food, spreading disease, and threatening genetic diversity and the sport-fishing industry.

The public trust doctrine applies to all navigable waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes up to the ordinary high-water mark, whether by common law or statute, including Michigan’s Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. Accordingly, any decision involving enclosed, cage or net-pen concentrated fish-farming operations must be reviewed by the framework, principles, and standards set forth under public trust law.

Anglers, Scientists, Lawmakers, & State Agencies Oppose Great Lakes Fish Farming

Numerous Great Lakes advocates, including environmental and anglers’ groups, tribes, scientists, legal experts, a trio of state agencies, and lawmakers in both major parties, say that net-pen aquaculture in the Great Lakes is not legally authorized and is too risky for the environment, native species, and the multibillion-dollar sport fishing economy.

In the Great Lakes, a small number of commercial fish farms have been allowed since the 1980s, but only in Canadian-held waters in Lake Huron’s North Channel and Georgian Bay. Michigan began to seriously consider Great Lakes fish farming in 2011 when three state agencies—the departments of Natural Resource (MDNR), Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD)—partnered with the aquaculture industry. Together they created a “road map” to help aquaculture operators navigate the regulatory process, consider the industry’s possible expansion into the Great Lakes, and grow the state’s current $5 million industry into a “major part of Michigan’s agriculture sector.”

The road map paved the way for two commercial proposals in 2014 to build net-pen rainbow trout operations—each harvesting as much as one million pounds of fish a year—off Michigan’s coast in northern Lake Michigan near Escanaba and northern Lake Huron by Rogers City.

Spurred by the proposals, the state agencies extensively studied the economic and environmental impacts, legal framework, and public perception of net-pen fish farming in the Great Lakes. In the face of troubling environmental and economic findings and stiff public opposition, the agencies’ March 2016 report strongly recommended against fish farming in the open waters of the Great Lakes “at this time,” citing “significant risks to fishery management and other types of recreation and tourism,” objections from Indian tribes, lack of a multimillion-dollar state funding stream to start up and maintain a program promising modest returns, and the absence of legal authority to issue permits.

Closed-Loop Fish Farming on Land Holds Promise

While several lawmakers, agencies, and organizations oppose opening the Great Lakes to commercial fish farming, many support closed-loop aquaculture systems on land that are completely separated from public-trust rivers, lakes, and streams For example, a Norwegian company in January announced plans to build one of the world’s largest, land-based salmon farms in Maine. The plan calls for up to $500 million in investment creating up to 140 jobs.

Advocates contend that these closed-loop fish farm operations can be a sustainable source of nutritious local food and economic development. The trio of Michigan resource agencies—MDEQ, MDNR, and MDARD— overseeing aquaculture have expressed support for assisting the industry in the development of closed-loop, recirculating aquaculture facilities.

Contained systems on land continually recirculate and filter water in the fish tanks and offer advantages over, and address several key concerns regarding, open-water fish farming, including:

  • No reliance on public waters;
  • Capture and treatment of waste, including excess feed and chemicals;
  • Disease prevention;
  • Little or no chance of fish escaping into the wild;
  • Tight control of the temperature, flow, and water quality to ensure optimum rearing conditions; and
  • Less water use than other aquaculture systems.

According to Michigan Sea Grant, the disadvantages of closed-loop systems are high complexity, start-up costs, energy use, and failure rates. Taking up the challenge, the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, in its 2016 statewide water strategy, expressed support only for closed-loop or recirculating aquaculture systems and called for the state and industry to collaborate to establish operational best practices and grow the industry.

Michigan Lawmakers Should Ban Great Lakes Fish Farming Before It Takes Root

Lawmakers in Michigan should learn from the experience in Washington state, where the legislature just voted to ban Atlantic salmon fish farming in Puget Sound after an Atlantic salmon net pen failed last August, releasing 250,000 Atlantic salmon into local waters. FLOW has called on the Michigan legislature to expressly prohibit factory fish farms in the Great Lakes and its tributaries before corporate proposals to privatize and farm Michigan-controlled waters take root.

The bottom line is that it is the government’s perpetual duty under public trust common law to protect the Great Lakes and its tributaries for the public’s current and future benefit, including for drinking, boating, fishing, swimming, sustenance, and navigation for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Ongoing efforts by the state of Michigan, aided by Michigan State University Extension, to justify and minimize – rather than prohibit – private farming of fish in public waters are completely misguided.

Kelly Thayer, FLOW Contributor

It’s time for Michigan lawmakers to follow the lead of Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, who have introduced legislation to ban open-water fish farms in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters to protect “our clean water, our water-based economy, and our outdoor way of life.”

Click here to learn more about FLOW’s program to challenge aquaculture in the Great Lakes.

Click here for related news on Anglers of the Au Sable lawsuit challenging the Grayling Fish Hatchery.


Public Trust Tuesday: Private Fish Farms in Public Waters

byzantine-empire-public-land.-trusts

FLOW’s organizing principle is the public trust doctrine.  What sounds like an exotic concept is quite simple.  This centuries-old principle of common law holds that there are some resources, like water and submerged lands, that by their nature cannot be privately owned.  Rather, this commons – including the Great Lakes — belongs to the public.  And governments, like the State of Michigan, have a responsibility to protect public uses of these resources.  We explicitly address public trust concerns on what we’re calling Public Trust Tuesday.


Lawmakers in Michigan should learn from the experience in Washington state, where the legislature just voted to ban Atlantic salmon fish farming in Puget Sound, and expressly prohibit factory fish farms in the Great Lakes and its tributaries before corporate proposals to privatize and farm Michigan-controlled waters take root.

As FLOW has outlined in its recent Great Lakes fish farming issue brief, the lessons from across the nation and globe are clear:

  • Non-native fish in floating cages or net-pens occupying public waters inevitably escape and compete with wild fish for food, spread disease, and threaten genetic diversity.
  • Private fish farms in public waterways undermine public access, recreation, drinking water supplies, sport fishing, and jobs.
  • Factory fish farming concentrates and releases untreated waste, excess nutrients, and antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, spurring outbreaks of disease and algae growth.

The bottom line is that it’s the government’s perpetual duty under public trust common law to protect the Great Lakes and its tributaries for the public’s current and future benefit, including for drinking, boating, fishing, swimming, sustenance, and navigation for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Ongoing efforts by the state of Michigan, aided by Michigan State University Extension, to justify and minimize – rather than prohibit – private farming of fish in public waters are completely misguided.

It’s time for Michigan lawmakers to follow the lead of Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, who have introduced legislation to ban open-water fish farms in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters to protect “our clean water, our water-based economy, and our outdoor way of life.”

Click here to learn more about FLOW’s program to challenge aquaculture in the Great Lakes.


PR: Congressman Dan Kildee Introduces Legislation to Protect the Great Lakes, Michigan’s Sport Fishing Industry

Great Lakes advocates say that commercial net-pen fish farming, pictured above, does not belong in Michigan’s public waters.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Contact: Mitchell Rivard, 989-450-2534, Mitchell.Rivard@mail.house.gov

 

Congressman Dan Kildee Introduces Legislation to Protect the Great Lakes, Michigan’s Sport Fishing Industry

Kildee Seeks to Address For-Profit Fish Farming that Poses New Threats to Michigan’s Waterways, including the Au Sable River

 

FENTON – Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), flanked by sports fishermen and conservationists at Red Fox Outfitters in Fenton, today announced that he has introduced new legislation in Congress to ban harmful aquaculture practices in both the Great Lakes and federally designated “Wild and Scenic Rivers,” which includes the Au Sable River. The new bills are part of Congressman Kildee’s continued efforts to protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s rivers from pollution, disease and invasive species.

Aquaculture is the commercial raising of fish in ponds, rivers or lakes. If not done correctly, it has been shown to increase pollution, destroy sensitive fish habitats, spread disease and introduce non-native species. Sadly, other states have seen polluted waterways that have crippled local economies as a result of bad aquaculture practices. A commercial fish farm facility in Pennsylvania on Big Spring Creek – once a famous trout stream – collapsed the region’s fishing industry in the 1970s.

“Like many Michiganders, I have fond memories spending time up north on the lakes or fishing in the river with my family. For everyone in our state, our water is precious, and that’s why we have to always protect it from harm. Whether it is invasive species like Asian Carp, Canada’s plan to store nuclear waste on the shore of the Great Lakes or commercial fish farming, I will always fight to protect Michigan’s freshwater and the vital jobs that depend on it,” said Congressman Kildee.

Currently, a commercial aquaculture facility near Grayling has a state-issued permit, through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, to expand its fish farming operation by 15 times its current size. The expansion will pollute the “Holy Waters” of the Au Sable River, one of Michigan’s 16 rivers designated a “Wild and Scenic River” by the federal government based on its unique ecosystems and pristine scenery.

Congressman Kildee’s two bills include:

  • The Ban Aquaculture in the Great Lakes Act, which would ban aquaculture facilities in the Great Lakes, ending the current patchwork of state laws that attempt to regulate such commercial fishing.
  • The Preserving Fishing on Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which would ban aquaculture facilities on Wild and Scenic Rivers and its tributaries, such as the Au Sable River, unless such facilities are shown not to discharge pollutants into the river.

Banning aquaculture has support from a vast majority of Michiganders, as well as lawmakers and conservation groups. According to a recent poll, 68 percent of Michiganders oppose aquaculture in the Great Lakes. Additionally, this issue is not a partisan one; Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have previously introduced legislation to ban aquaculture in the Great Lakes and in Michigan waterways.

Congressman Kildee’s legislation also has support from the Anglers of the Au Sable, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Salmon and Steelhead Association and For the Love of Water (FLOW).

“Anglers of the Au Sable applauds Congressman Kildee for addressing an overlooked Great Lakes water issue, the introduction of pollutants by fish farms into the Lakes and connecting waterways,” said Tom Baird, president of the organization that focuses on improving fishing on the Au Sable River. “It is vital that fish farms be operated in a way that protects the cleanliness of our rivers and lakes, which are in a delicate balance easily tipped by addition of wastes from aquaculture done improperly. Flow through systems that use rivers as virtually open sewers are of particular concern to those of us who fish for trout, which need clean, cold water to thrive. This legislation would ensure only properly regulated fish farms which don’t pollute are allowed on designated rivers.”

“The Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association is one of the largest sport fishing organizations in the Great Lakes Basin. Our mission is to protect, promote and enhance sport fishing in the Great Lakes and connecting water ways. We are proud to support legislation to prohibit aquaculture in the Great Lakes and to prohibit aquaculture operations that contribute to pollution of wild and scenic rivers,” said Dennis Eade, Executive Director of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fishermen’s Association.

“We appreciate Congressman Kildee’s leadership on this very important sportsmen’s issue.  Aquaculture facilities across the globe that are connected to public water bodies have proven to be disastrous for water quality and fish health. Our $4 billion fishery in Michigan drives local economies, creates jobs, and connects millions of Michigan citizens to our long and storied heritage as the premier fishing destination in North America,” said Michigan United Conservation Club.

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The Great Lakes are no place for fish farming, but there might be one nearby

The waters of the Great Lakes are held in trust by the state as a shared public commons for the benefit of citizens for navigation, boating, fishing, health and sustenance. The courts of all eight Great Lakes states have recognized this principle, which means the states must manage these waters as a trustee for the benefit of all citizens to prevent interference with these public purposes – a duty of stewardship.

Net-pen fish-farming in the Great Lakes poses a major interference with existing protected riparian and public uses of these hallowed waters – landowners, fishermen, boaters, tourists, and citizens. Private fish farming would displace and interfere with the public trust in these waters.

 

Click here to read Jim Olson’s full guest commentary on bridgemi.com!

 

Opinion on Aquaculture by Bill Schuette, Attorney General

Great Lakes advocates say that commercial net-pen fish farming, pictured above, does not belong in Michigan’s public waters.
Since our A.G. has emphasized the importance of public trust in the Great Lakes and navigable lakes and streams, including Great Lakes, we’ve analyzed the doctrine, applied it to fish farming in Great Lakes, and the answer is: it cannot be authorized under the public trust doctrine, not even by legislative amendment to expand the definition of aquaculture as implied by the A.G.’s opinion.

 

Read the recent Attorney General opinion on Aquaculture in the Great Lakes: Click here! 

Read More about Aquaculture in FLOW’s recent Aquaculture issue brief! 

(Also available in Flipbook form)

 

Michigan’s Growing Threat: Fish Farming in the Great Lakes & Tributaries

Great Lakes advocates say that commercial net-pen fish farming, pictured above, does not belong in Michigan’s public waters.

Great Lakes advocates say that commercial net-pen fish farming, pictured above, does not belong in Michigan’s public waters. FLOW’s latest issue brief, available here, summarizes the public trust legal framework in Michigan that prohibits Great Lakes fish farming, outlines the significant economic and environmental risks that aquaculture poses, and recommends actions the public can take.


Michigan sits at the center
of a debate over whether to open its Great Lakes waters to commercial aquaculture or fish farming. The practice involves packing thousands of fish into near-shore cages or mesh net-pens that rise above the surface, are anchored to the bottom, and accessed via pier or boat. The fish are fattened with food pellets and buoyed by antibiotics, and discharge tons of untreated waste rich in nitrogen and algae-producing phosphorous into public waters.

Great Lakes advocates, including environmental and anglers groups, tribes, scientists, legal experts, a trio of state agencies, and lawmakers in both major parties, say that net-pen aquaculture in the Great Lakes is not legally authorized and is too risky for the environment, native species, and the multibillion-dollar sport fishing economy.

This FLOW Issue Brief summarizes the public trust legal framework in Michigan that prohibits Great Lakes fish farming, outlines the significant economic and environmental risks that aquaculture poses, points to the promise of closed-loop aquaculture operations not connected to public waters, and recommends actions the public can take.


(Click to access PDF of the issue brief)

There is No Legal Authority for Commercial Fish Farming in Great Lakes Waters

The Great Lakes are not and cannot be a “gold mine” for any private person or corporation. They are owned by the State in public trust for each citizen. The Supreme Courts of Michigan, the U.S. and other states have ruled for more than 120 years that public trust bottomlands and waters cannot be transferred or occupied or subordinated for primarily private gain. Not the DEQ, not private interests, not the Governor, not the legislature, not even the courts can violate this principle. Moreover, given the environmental effects and the fact that feasible and prudent on-land alternatives exist, fish farming the Great Lakes would violate basic environmental law standards. So it’s time for the fish farming industry to stop promising “gold mines” for the Great Lakes.  They are not legal, they cannot be approved.  Land is for farms, the Great Lakes are for navigation, fishing, swimming, drinking water, sustenance, and recreation, aquatic life, and our own quality of life. There is no authority for private development of aquaculture CAFOs or any water farms in the Great Lakes, so the debate over environmental impacts is a waste of time. Moreover, because there are on-land alternatives, they must be done or shown to be totally unfeasible and not prudent. If anything, on-land fish farming is feasible and prudent.

Public Comments to MI DNR, DEQ, and DARD on Aquaculture in the Great Lakes and Tributaries of Michigan

Aquaculture –often in the form of networks of enclosed pens that exclusively occupy a large area of surface water and underlying bottomlands—raises substantial legal, environmental, aquatic resource, and water use impact issues. Specifically, the use of public waters and bottomlands for the occupancy and operation of concentrated fish production raises a number of grave concerns, including: (1) exclusion of public access and other uses, (2) likely impacts from wastes and nutrient loading, (3) escaped fish pumped with antibiotics, and (4) interference with rights of boating, fishing, swimming, and other forms of paramount public uses that are protected by the public trust doctrine.

By definition concentrated aquaculture or fish farms that occupy surface and deeper water areas and occupy or are anchored or supported by bottomlands of the Great Lakes are subject to the common law public trust doctrine. Accordingly, any decision involving enclosed, pen concentrated fish-farming operations must be framed through the standards set forth under the public trust doctrine. This comment outlines the public trust framework critical to any state decision involving aquaculture in the Great Lakes and connected navigable waterways. Read the full comments here.