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Fresh hope for federal US aquaculture

12 March 2020, at 6:36am

A bill that might pave the way for an aquaculture industry in US federal waters was introduced to the House of Representatives yesterday.

The bipartisan Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act was introduced by the Democrat’s House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Republican Congressman Steven Palazzo, in a move that has been applauded by Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) “for working across party lines to bring awareness and encourage debate in Congress on the topic of expanding American aquaculture”.

© SATS

“A predictable regulatory framework and National Standards for aquaculture production are critical to the competitiveness of the American seafood industry, which currently faces a seafood trade deficit of $14 billion,” said Bill DiMento, president of SATS and vice president of corporate sustainability and government affairs at High Liner Foods.

“Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food sector in the world, but the US ranks only 16th in the production of farm-raised seafood. Half of the fish eaten in the United States comes from farms – but not from American farms. We can do better. With global demand for seafood projected to increase by 70 percent in the next 30 years – domestic aquaculture, combined with our wild fish harvesting – could one day meet the entire US demand for seafood. Federal legislation is an important first step,” DiMento added.

The AQUAA Act would establish National Standards for sustainable offshore aquaculture and clarify a regulatory pathway for offshore aquaculture in the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which will support growth of the domestic offshore aquaculture industry.

According to SATS, the regulated expansion of domestic aquaculture would stimulate economic growth in coastal and agricultural communities across the US, create thousands of jobs, and provide a steady supply of healthy and affordable seafood, while protecting the country’s wild-capture fisheries and natural resources.

The organisation also argues that increased aquaculture production would also benefit farmers of soybeans, corn and peas – products that would be used to create fish feed, easing pressure on ocean resources while providing a new market for US farmers.

Open Blue produces cobia in specialist offshore aquaculture systems up to 10 miles off the coast of Panama
Open Blue produces cobia in specialist offshore aquaculture systems up to 10 miles off the coast of Panama

The lack of a predictable, affordable and efficient permitting process for offshore aquaculture in the US has led many American companies to establish operations overseas – sending jobs and economic opportunities abroad. Federal action aims to reverse that trend and increase US seafood production.

“Aquaculture is a fast-growing agriculture industry that is creating jobs and improving our country’s food security,” said Chairman Peterson. “It also creates a market for soybeans as they provide nutritious aquafeed. Our bill will streamline the permitting process and build upon research and development efforts that are underway.”

Palazzo said: “The United States imports nearly 90 percent of our seafood, and of that, more than half is produced through foreign aquaculture. The AQUAA Act streamlines the federal permitting process to usher in a wave of American aquaculture and reduce our dependency on foreign seafood imports while we grow a sustainable market. Food security is national security and we must work to ensure America is prepared to meet the needs of tomorrow’s food demand.”