July 23, 1998
Action Alert - Tell US EPA to Set Standards for Fish Farm
Biological and chemical wastes from agricultural feedlots and
fish farms are a major source of water pollution in the
United States, according to the Environmental Defense Fund
(EDF). However, current standards for discharges from
feedlots are inadequate, and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has never established national
standards for waste water discharges from fish farms -- which
can release herbicides, antibiotics and other farm chemicals
directly to surface waters. As EPA prepares to revise its
current standards for waste disposal by hog, poultry, and
cattle feedlots, EDF is urging the public to write to the
agency and demand that it establish effluent guidelines under
the Clean Water Act for fish farms.
Fish farming, which includes production of saltwater fish,
freshwater fish and shellfish, is now the fastest growing
sector of U.S. agriculture, according to EDF. Data from the
U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization indicate that U.S. production of
farmed fish increased by more than 50% in value over the past
decade and is now approaching US$1 billion per year. Major
species cultivated include channel catfish, rainbow trout,
Atlantic salmon and shrimp. These species may be grown in
ponds, tanks or cages placed directly in bays and estuaries.
Producers range from individual owner-operators to large
Like other types of feedlot agriculture, fish farms can
release large quantities of polluting wastes -- including
chemicals, feces, other excretory products and uneaten feed.
Unlike terrestrial feedlots, however, which discharge wastes
to storage lagoons and thus reach surface waters only
indirectly, fish farm wastes are often released directly into
lakes, rivers, bays and estuaries.
Some fish farms use pesticides and antibiotics, which are
also discharged with effluent. Pesticide active ingredients
registered for use on fish farms include several herbicides,
such as 2,4-D, glyphosate, and diquat bromide, which are used
to control algae and aquatic weeds. The pyrethroid
insecticide cypermethrin is used by salmon farmers on an
experimental basis. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous,
which can contaminate drinking water and shellfish and cause
algal blooms and fishkills, are also released in fish farm
In addition, effluent from fish farms may spread diseases
from farmed to wild fish. For example, foreign shrimp viruses
have in recent years caused devastating losses on coastal
shrimp farms in Texas and South Carolina, which raise an
exotic species of shrimp. Concern that shrimp farm effluent
may be spreading foreign viruses to wild shrimp populations
has prompted the environmental agencies in these two states
to develop quarantine regulations for coastal shrimp farms.
Although some states have established standards, most U.S.
fish farms do not currently treat their wastes. However, EPA
is now evaluating fish farming as an industrial category for
the development of "effluent limitation guidelines" under the
Clean Water Act. If developed, these effluent guidelines
would establish national standards for discharge of fish farm
wastes and could prescribe best management practices for fish
According to EDF, some industry and U.S. Department of
Agriculture representatives will probably oppose the
development of effluent guidelines, and it is critical that
EPA receive letters in support of guidelines from individuals
and organizations in favor of clean water and environmentally
responsible fish farming.
PLEASE WRITE TO EPA! Tell the agency to develop effluent
guidelines for fish farms. Consider making the following
-- Fish farm wastes can pollute water with farm chemicals,
feces, other fish excretory products, uneaten feed and fish
-- Fish farming is a growing industry in the United States.
Without regulation, water pollution from fish farms will only
-- At the same time EPA is revising effluent guidelines for
terrestrial feedlots, the agency should develop effluent
guidelines for aquatic feedlots. Unlike terrestrial feedlots,
fish farms often release wastes directly into natural bodies
Letters should be mailed to: Water Docket Clerk (4101), U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street S.W.,
Washington, DC 20460.
**Comments are due July 27, 1998.** EPA's Office of Water
will not accept comments via fax or email. EPA staff will
apparently consider letters that arrive via U.S. mail up to
two or three days after the comment deadline, according to
More information on fish farming in the U.S. is available
from EDF. "Murky Waters: Environmental Effects of Aquaculture
in the United States" can be downloaded from EDF's web site:
www.edf.org/pubs/Reports/Aquaculture/. Printed copies can be
ordered for US$20: phone toll free (800) 684-3322; email
Source/contact: Rebecca Goldburg, Environmental Defense Fund,
257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010; phone: (212) 505-
2100; fax (212) 505-2375; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
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Phone (415) 981-1771
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