Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

OPINION: We must protect the Gulf from industrialization

Conic aquaculture cage.
Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Conic aquaculture cage.

New Orleans relies on a thriving Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. We must protect it from industrialization.

As an environmental attorney in New Orleans, I work closely with fishing communities, coastal
residents and scientific experts to continually fight for a clean and healthy Gulf. We not only
value the environment, we also understand that fishing families, related businesses, and the
restaurants and markets they supply depend on wild fish for a strong local economy. Our whole community feels the impacts when our Gulf ecosystem suffers – and increasingly, fish and other marine life in the Gulf are at risk from a variety of threats.

We’re constantly grappling with an onslaught of challenges, from hurricanes fueled by extreme temperatures, to persistent toxic algal blooms that contribute to the “Dead Zone,” where little can survive. Now, to add to these existing concerns, big corporations are scoping out the Gulf as a site for development of industrial-scale fish farms that would pollute the surrounding waters and wildlife. Surprisingly, the very government agency tasked with conserving and managing our ocean resources is not only supporting this, it is leading the charge!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has identified nine sites in the
Gulf of Mexico for the construction of offshore finfish aquaculture facilities, two of which are
actually in the dead zone. These floating factory farms can release pesticides, untreated fish
waste and other chemicals into the Gulf. We’ve seen many cases in other regions where this
style of massive net pen facility creates a high risk of fish escaping and spreading diseases and other infestations, as well as pollution contributing to “red tides” and further threatening endangered marine mammals.

Despite the known hazards, one such facility is already poised for construction in the Gulf. The Velella Epsilon project will be closest to Sarasota, Florida where local residents are
overwhelmingly opposed to the development, but many here in Louisiana don’t yet know about how this threat to the Gulf could impact us too.

Pollution circulates in the Gulf regardless of state lines, and if this first-of-its-kind facility moves forward, it will only be the beginning of construction across the Gulf. So I’m working with Florida advocates to challenge this facility, as well as with people all across the country to push back on NOAA’s nationwide plans to carve up the ocean for private development.

If aquaculture corporations continue to push forward unchecked, they will pollute our waters,
squeeze family businesses out of the market, and jeopardize our state’s economy. These
corporations stand to gain millions of dollars, but the profits won’t be invested in our local
communities, they’ll go toward lining the pockets of executives and investors all around the world, leaving us with the mess and little else. Those of us who live with and love our Gulf, understand how to sustainably use natural resources and protect our communities’ well-being.

We’ll keep exploring legal options to challenge this new industry, but we can’t rely on the courts alone to protect our ecosystem and local economies. We Louisianans can join nation-wide efforts and demand that our government block corporate greed from further polluting our Gulf.

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