Aquaculture –often in the form of networks of enclosed pens that exclusively occupy a large area of surface water and underlying bottomlands—raises substantial legal, environmental, aquatic resource, and water use impact issues. Specifically, the use of public waters and bottomlands for the occupancy and operation of concentrated fish production raises a number of grave concerns, including: (1) exclusion of public access and other uses, (2) likely impacts from wastes and nutrient loading, (3) escaped fish pumped with antibiotics, and (4) interference with rights of boating, fishing, swimming, and other forms of paramount public uses that are protected by the public trust doctrine.
By definition concentrated aquaculture or fish farms that occupy surface and deeper water areas and occupy or are anchored or supported by bottomlands of the Great Lakes are subject to the common law public trust doctrine. Accordingly, any decision involving enclosed, pen concentrated fish-farming operations must be framed through the standards set forth under the public trust doctrine. This comment outlines the public trust framework critical to any state decision involving aquaculture in the Great Lakes and connected navigable waterways. Read the full comments here.