Jones bill would ban fish farming in the Great Lakes

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones has introduced legislation to ban commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes.

“Concentrated fish poo is just not Pure Michigan,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “A typical 200,000-fish operation creates as much waste as a city of 65,000 people, which would make the Great Lakes a giant toilet bowl. By allowing commercial fish farming we can say goodbye to our Pure Michigan status and hello to an undrinkable Toledo water supply.”

Fish waste contains phosphorous, which is beneficial for ecosystems in minimal amounts. However, a concentrated amount of phosphorous, found in fish farms, can cause widespread algae blooms like the one that devastated Lake Erie. Algae blooms are steadily becoming more common throughout the Lakes. An algae bloom led to the undrinkable water supply in Toledo.

“The waste in a commercial fish farm would stay where Michigan families enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and paddling,” Jones said, “Unlike ocean fish farms, where tides flush away the waste, it will stay in the coastal region of the Great Lakes.”

Caged fish culture was developed to produce thousands of fish with the purpose to sell as food. These factory fish farms are floating nets placed in waterways and are huge threats to the existing ecosystem.

“Legislators have a constitutional duty to protect our Great Lakes,” Jones said. “Commercial fish farms in the Great Lakes are all risk and no reward. These are proven sources of pollution, invasive species, disease, and fugitive fish escaping to wreak havoc on our fisheries. My bill is about codifying the opinion of Attorney General Schuette and protecting our lakes and fisheries.”

Sport fishing in Michigan supports 15,000 jobs, and the Great Lakes fishing industry contributes $7 billion a year to the economy. The Great Lakes has some of the world’s greatest steelhead fishing, a type of rainbow trout.

“A proposed fish farm growing rainbow trout would put our sport fishing industry, as well as the species, in grave peril,” Jones said. “This risk is too great to only create a handful of jobs and allow fish farming into the Great Lakes. When that rainbow trout inevitably escapes it will jeopardize the entire steelhead population.”

Jones said that there is a right way to do aquaculture. Closed-loop aquaculture operations can help meet the demand of the proponent’s contribution to feed the world’s growing population, without damaging the Great Lakes. These are systems on land that use a separate water supply to allow more control over fish waste, which can actually be harvested for fertilizer.

“Detroit and other cities with vacant buildings are prime candidates to support the creation of these contained systems and bring a thriving industry to our economy,” Jones said.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Trout Unlimited and Michigan Environmental Council are all supportive of Jones’ bill.

“It is inevitable that these farmed fish will escape,” Jones said. “These fugitive fish would then compete with wild fish for food, disrupt their natural reproduction and interfere with their genetic diversity, ultimately making it very difficult for the wild fish to survive.”

Senate Bill 423 would ban commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes and inland Michigan lakes larger than five acres in size. The bill has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration.