Judge: NOAA can't regulate fish farming under fisheries law

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge in New Orleans has thrown out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rules for fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico, saying the agency lacked authority to make them.

Tuesday's ruling halts open-water aquaculture for now.

The Center for Food Safety represents groups that sued NOAA. It calls the ruling a landmark victory and "the test case for similar rules planned off all other U.S. coasts."

A plaintiff and land-based aquaculture advocate says a bill by Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is now the open-water industry's only way forward. The Recirculating Farms Coalition is fighting that bill.

NOAA says it's considering whether to appeal. A statement says NOAA remains committed to expanding marine aquaculture's "social, environmental and economic benefits," and notes that the ruling doesn't forbid marine aquaculture.

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