Skip to content

May 26, 2006

Paige Schoknecht at (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D – Palo Alto) announced today that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed Senate Bill 201, Simitian’s legislation to regulate aquaculture (also known as fish farming) along California’s coast.  In his signing message, Schwarzenegger called the legislation a “common sense proposal” that would “provide strict protections for the environment and consumers.”

Simitian said he introduced the bill because of concerns about the fish farming industry’s potential impact on “our coastal environment and economy, as well as the public’s health and safety.  The standards are rigorous, but attainable,” said Simitian.  “My hope,” he added, “is that these standards will be a model for other states, and for the nation.”

“The impending growth of California’s fish farming industry presents real challenges,” said Simitian.  “The aquaculture industry will push to meet the demands of consumers’ appetite for fish, but it shouldn’t do that at the cost of our environment, or the safety of the food we put on the dinner table.  SB 201 sets much needed standards so that the fish farming industry develops safely and responsibly.”   

Fish farmed in pens are often exposed to chemicals, overfed, swim in waste, and spread disease and parasites.  They can also escape and breed with wild fish, causing harmful effects to the marine ecosystem.  While fish farming is the world’s fastest growing food-producing industry, there are no comprehensive standards to guide its growth. 

Known as the Sustainable Oceans Act, Simitian’s SB 201 requires the state to look at a myriad of environmental and public health impacts when deciding where to allow fish farms to operate off of California’s coast.  Further, it sets the standards that the state will use to determine which fish farmers obtain a lease.  These standards include minimizing the use of drugs and chemicals in the fish farming process, tagging farmed fish, and regularly inspecting fish pens.

In 1970, only 4 percent of the world’s seafood came from fish farms.  Today, the fish farming industry provides 40% of all fish-food products worldwide.  The U.S. Department of Commerce recently proposed expanding production fivefold—from a $1 billion to a $5 billion industry—over the next 20 years. 

“This legislation comes at a critical time for California and the nation,” said Tim Eichenberg of The Ocean Conservancy, the bill’s sponsor.  “As efforts to promote the aquaculture industry grow, it is essential that this growth does not degrade wild fish stocks and ocean ecosystems.  Simitian’s SB 201 establishes common sense environmental standards that can serve as a national model for sustainable aquaculture.”

“SB 201 is an extremely important bill for the protection of California’s marine resources, and it is timely in setting an example for the nation as the federal Offshore Aquaculture Act is debated in Washington D.C.,” said Rosamond Naylor, an aquaculture specialist and the Julie Wrigley Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Simitian’s SB 201 is supported by the commercial fishing industry, sport fishers, the Center for Food Safety and over 20 environmental groups including the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, Bluewater Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Simitian said he was pleased that the Governor signed the bill into law.  “Governor Schwarzenegger has repeatedly expressed his concern about our coast and oceans,” said Simitian.  And, noted Simitian, “The bill does not prohibit the growth of fish farming.  It simply requires that the industry be developed in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.”