Aquaculture for all
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The Need to Raise Fish and Awareness

CALIFORNIA - It's a sobering thought that today, approximately 80 percent of the seafood Americans consume is imported - and nearly half of this comes from foreign aquaculture, or fish farming. The United States lags far behind the rest of the world when it comes to aquaculture, and we need to get on board in a big way, writes Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California.

It's an interesting and perplexing fact that this country - which leads the world in food production and has such vast, rich and diversified coastal waters - has to turn to foreign nations for much of the fish and seafood it consumes.

Why am I writing about this in a sportfishing publication rather than an economics magazine? Because raising fish is one of the most important things we can do to take the pressure off our nation's depleted fish stocks.

At United Anglers, so much of our collective time and energy is spent doing all we can to keep destructive commercial fishing gear - especially bottom trawlers, longlines and gill nets - out of our waters. These forms of commercial fishing destroy important habitat, impact water quality and kill large amounts of non-target fish species discarded as "bycatch." Our organization is not anti-commercial fishing; we strongly support and promote responsible and sustainable commercial fishing practices like hook-and-line, seine and harpoon fishing.

Americans and Californians in particular want to protect our marine resources and habitat; it's why our state is in the midst of hammering out implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). This desire for conservation is also the driving force behind the drastic overarching solution of no-take Marine Reserves, something we are trying to address as we promote the conservation ethic among recreational anglers.

Given this political background, we must look at raising seafood as a way to meet our country's growing demand while taking pressure off depleted fish stocks. In fear of losing their own identity, many commercial fishing and processing interests have played a role against the move toward increased fish farming. They've done this by creating unreasonable benchmarks. In the name of environmental certainty, much of the corporate conservation community has spent considerable energy and resources following this path. The rest of the world has proven that aquaculture can be economically successful. The United States needs to show that it can be both economically successful and ecologically sound.

Fortunately, there is a groundswell of interest in the US on the subject of aquaculture. I recently attended the U.S. Conference on Aquaculture in Washington, DC. Among the many notable presenters at this conference was Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., administrator of National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He not only emphasiSed the need for the US to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to raising our own seafood, he singled out our efforts with Southern California's white seabass hatchery program as an example of a successful sportfish replenishment effort.

Source: The Log