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SiX Takeaways: Exploring the Local to International Impacts of Industrial Aquaculture

Here are the resources, information and SiX takeaways from the SiX webinar: Exploring Local to International Impacts of Industrial Aquaculture on Friday March 15th, 2024.

If you were unable to attend to attend the webinar live, you can watch the recording here. Password: 6AquaWeb!

  1. Industrial aquaculture is the mass cultivation of finfish in marine waters in underwater or floating net pens, pods and cages. These facilities come with a host of problems for the ocean environment, local fishing economies, and our food system. They discharge untreated fish waste and uneaten food directly into natural waters and require extensive use of antibiotics and pesticides to control sea lice and other diseases. Despite company assurances about the security of the nets, there have been large-scale escapes of farmed fish, which can threaten the health of wild fish. These operations also attract marine mammal predators, changing their behavior; seabirds; and other wildlife that can become entangled and die in the nets.

  2. The industrial aquaculture industry has adopted the factory farming business model, which centralizes control of the operation and places profit above environmental protection, worker rights, animal welfare, and social responsibility. Finfish farming cordons off our oceans to feed the private greed of industrial aquaculture, which is connected to the extractive and polluting industrial food system around the world.

  3. The US can model appropriate aquaculture legislation on the experience of other countries.  Open-net salmon farming is the fastest-growing industry in the world, and it is expanding in US waters largely due to the lack of laws and regulations. There is federal legislation (AQUAA Act: Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture) that would actually further open the US to fish farming, to the detriment of our coastal regions. US lawmakers should take note from communities fighting this extractive industry around the world. For example, Argentina banned aquaculture after witnessing the destruction that salmon farms caused in Chile’s coastal communities and marine environment. Norway imposed a tax on salmon farm companies operating within their waters. Canada has stopped renewing permits for marine aquaculture. Countries around the world recognize the negative impacts of finfish aquaculture; the United States can too.

  4. States are on the frontlines of the expansion of industrial aquaculture and state policymakers and officials have an important role to play. In Maine, Representative Jan Dodge has been working alongside her community to fight the proposal of a massive aquaculture facility from Nordic Aquaculture that would pump 7.7 million gallons of wastewater per day into the local bay. In Washington State, Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, worked to ban net-pens in state waters following a massive escape of fish from a Cooke Aquaculture facility. Watch Commissioner Franz’s short video here on how she worked with communities to establish an industrial aquaculture ban.

  5. The threat of industrial aquaculture is too great to not be proactive with policy. For Rep. Dodge, the challenges that have come from fighting the Nordic Aquaculture project have shown the need for legislation that is proactive rather than reactive, to protect communities and the environment from this exploitative industry. It is also critical that policymakers work directly with impacted communities to gather information and strategize viable solutions. Rep. Dodge mentioned that she was surprised that many of Maine’s government agencies supported the Nordic Aquaculture facility despite community opposition, which made it challenging to know where to get accurate information. Speaker Catalina Cendoya from Global Salmon Farming Resistance, said that many of their group’s successes similarly came when policymakers and communities worked together.

  6. Policymakers have an opportunity to work with communities to build and support sustainable, culturally-centered aquaculture. In Hawai’i, communities are working alongside state legislators to restore traditional Hawaiian fish ponds, loko i’a.  In 1778, there were 448 loko i’a across six islands; in 2023, there were just 45. There have been great efforts in the last decade to restore the ponds, working with Native Hawaiian communities and schools to teach Indigenous methods of aquaculture. The restoration of the ponds is helping educators, students, policymakers, and Native leaders rethink what it means to feed the community and provide an alternative to industrial aquaculture.

Further Resources/Panelist Resources: 


To stay touch with the SiX Ag and Food Systems team and get access to exclusive briefings like this and more, I encourage you to join the Cohort for Rural Opportunity and Prosperity (CROP), the only cross-state cohort of state legislators in the country dedicated to working on progressive agriculture, rural, environmental and food policy. Learn more and sign up for the CROP here:

As always, if you need assistance or would like to work on sustainable aquaculture policies and stopping the proliferation of industrial aquaculture, please reach out to [email protected].