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Ocean Aquaculture Will Not Tackle Seafood Deficit

US - Commercial-scale open ocean aquaculture will not eliminate our seafood trade deficit despite government claims, says a new report by Food & Water Watch.

The report Fish Story: Why Offshore Fish Farming Will Not Break US Dependence on Imported Seafood, explains why open water ocean fish farming, will not reduce the $9.2 billion US seafood trade deficit. FWW actually believes the system poses a grave threat to oceans, coastal communities and fishing. “The US government has been pushing to open public waters to an industry that has failed to demonstrate that the practice is environmentally sustainable, technically possible or financially viable on a commercial scale,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director. “Offshore aquaculture will not solve our import problem and, furthermore, could threaten human health and the environment.”


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"Offshore aquaculture will not solve our import problem and, furthermore, could threaten human health and the environment"
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

Fish Story examines seafood trade patterns and the track record of existing ocean fish farms to demonstrate how an expanded US ocean fish farming industry is not likely to reduce US dependence on seafood imports. According to the report, the United States exports more than 70 percent of its seafood to countries where it fetches the best prices. In turn, US retailers buy their seafood from wherever they can get it cheapest, oftentimes in places with lower quality and health standards, such as China and Thailand.

Human Cost of Bottom Line Benefit

“These trading patterns benefit the bottom lines of global seafood companies, and unfortunately, we consumers are the ones who lose out,” stated Hauter. “We are importing cheaper seafood that may have been produced in conditions that would not be legal in the United States. Add this to an inadequate food inspection program that inspects less than two percent of all imports, and we’re looking at a potential human health disaster.”

FWW says that it is more likely that fish grown in offshore aquaculture cages would follow the current export pattern. The small quantity of newly farmed fish that would stay in the US would not offset the vast amount of fish that is imported. To help reduce this deficit, Food & Water Watch recommends reducing US reliance on imports by decreasing exports, and increasing domestic consumption of home caught and produced seafood. US fishermen already harvest enough fish to satisfy more than half of domestic consumption.

“Instead of using tax dollars to promote a new industry with known risks and questionable benefits, our government should focus its resources on protecting consumers from unsafe imports,” added Hauter. “Our government needs to invest in a stronger import inspection program and promote safe and sustainable seafood for American consumers.”

Among the facts highlighted in Food & Water Watch’s report are the following:

  • Only 19 percent (round weight) of the seafood available to US consumers is from this country because the US exports 71 percent (round weight) of US–produced seafood.
  • We export 69 percent of US–caught salmon, and only 20 percent of the salmon available to US consumers is from the United States. However, 36 percent available is farmed from Chile where food safety and labor standards are questionable.
  • The United States has lost about 13 percent of its seafood processing and canning jobs in the past decade.
  • FDA allows about 98 percent of seafood imports to enter the country without inspection, increasing the chance that contaminated seafood will enter our food supply.

Further Reading

More information - You can view the full report by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy

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