Aquaculture for all

SATS seeks $39 million federal funding for US aquaculture sector

Regulations Investment Offshore aquaculture +1 more

Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) has asked the federal government to set aside $39 million for the development of the US aquaculture sector in next year’s budget.

Underwater picture of a well-stocked fish pen.
One of the few offshore fish farms in the US, in Hawaii

Pro-aquaculture lobbyists argue that poor regulations are preventing US aquaculture from achieving its full potential © Innovasea

In a letter to two members of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, the lobby group has requested support of $25 million for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service’ (NMFS) Office of Aquaculture and $14.08 million for NOAA’s Ocean and Atmospheric Research (OAR) for the Sea Grant Aquaculture Research programme in the fiscal year 2025.

SATS wants the NMFS to receive its share of the funds to ensure continued funding of its five-year strategic plan to establish a comprehensive regulatory foundation for the sector. Currently, permitting of ocean aquaculture is complex, slow and varies between states.

The NMFS process includes siting analysis for future Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) in federal waters, interagency coordination on a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), development of science-based tools and modelling.

SATS also wants senators to recognise “the significant potential for development of American offshore aquaculture to increase US production of healthful, sustainable and affordable seafood”.

In the letter, SATS campaign manager Drue Banta Winters, notes that President Biden’s 2025 budget excludes any money for the Sea Grant Aquaculture Research programme - hence the request for $14 million for OAR.

“SATS supports this program for its important work to develop and commercialise new technologies for finfish aquaculture and to engineer ocean-based infrastructure,” writes Winters.

“By prioritising domestic aquaculture, you will support the growth of an American seafood community that is resilient to economic and climate changes and is part of a holistic approach to a greater sustainable food strategy.”

According to SATS, the US lags far behind the rest of the world in farmed seafood production, resulting in the country importing up to 85 percent of its seafood.

“The single biggest reason is the lack of a clear regulatory pathway for permitting new projects, particularly offshore. This challenging reality has forced many American businesses to invest in other countries,” Winter observes.

Read the full text of the SATS request here.

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