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Offshore Finfish Aquaculture in the United States: An Examination of Federal Laws That Could be Used to Address Environmental and Occupational Public Health Risks

November 19, 2014
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Jillian P. Fry, David C. Love, Arunima Shukla and Ryan M. Lee

Half of the world’s edible seafood comes from aquaculture, and the United States (US) government is working to develop an offshore finfish aquaculture industry in federal waters. To date, US aquaculture has largely been regulated at the state level, and creating an offshore aquaculture industry will require the development of a new regulatory structure. Some aquaculture practices involve hazardous working conditions and the use of veterinary drugs, agrochemicals, and questionable farming methods, which could raise environmental and occupational public health concerns if these methods are employed in the offshore finfish industry in the US. This policy analysis aims to inform public health professionals and other stakeholders in the policy debate regarding how offshore finfish aquaculture should be regulated in the US to protect human health; previous policy analyses on this topic have focused on environmental impacts. We identified 20 federal laws related to offshore finfish aquaculture, including 11 that are relevant to preventing, controlling, or monitoring potential public health risks. Given the novelty of the industry in the US, myriad relevant laws, and jurisdictional issues in an offshore setting, federal agencies need to work collaboratively and transparently to ensure that a comprehensive and functional regulatory structure is established that addresses the potential public health risks associated with this type of food production.

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