Aquaculture for all

US senators re-launch AQUAA Act

Regulations Offshore aquaculture +2 more

Legislation that would provide the regulatory framework needed to increase US offshore aquaculture production was reintroduced into the Senate this week.

A fish farm in Kona Bay, Hawaii

Brian Schatz, Senator for Hawaii, would like legislative support to build on the state's aquaculture success © Jeffrey Milisen

On June 7, Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) re-introduced the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, which aims to increase production of sustainable seafood offshore in US federal waters and create economic opportunities for American communities coast-to-coast. Introduction of the AQUAA Act follows the White House’s Ocean Climate Action Plan issued in March, which calls for the expansion of sustainable US aquaculture production.

Senator Wicker said: “The aquaculture industry is growing rapidly, but the lack of a national permitting system for federal waters has held back development and prevented American producers from growing more seafood at home. This legislation would establish comprehensive standards for offshore aquaculture, helping US producers meet the growing demand for fresh, locally-sourced seafood.”

Senator Schatz added: “Hawai‘i’s diverse aquaculture produced over $80 million of finfish, shellfish, and algae in 2019. At the same time, the movement to restore native Hawaiian fishponds such as those at He‘eia and Maunalua continues to develop momentum. This bipartisan bill would increase federal support for both. I thank Senator Wicker for his partnership, and look forward to working with him to pass this groundbreaking legislation.”

“Now is the time for Congress to act to support the expansion of American aquaculture offshore,” said Drue Banta Winters, campaign manager of Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS). ”As one of the most environmentally friendly forms of protein production, aquaculture will ensure American food security by increasing our supply of healthful and affordable seafood sustainably. Communities across America would benefit, creating new job opportunities for American workers throughout the US supply chain, including for fish farmers, feed producers and manufacturers, and seafood processors, as well as for American famers of crops that can be used in fish feed – such as corn, soybeans, peas and more.”

According to SATS, due to inefficient federal permitting processes, the US ranks only 17th in aquaculture production. Of the total $281.5 billion global aquaculture market, the US is valued at $1.5 billion or 0.5 percent, and therefore imports up to 80 percent of the seafood it consumes.

“In order for the US seafood industry to remain competitive and diversify our food strategy, Congress must act,” Drue continued. “We thank Senators Wicker and Schatz for helping educate other Members of Congress about the need for a federal permitting process for offshore aquaculture.”

The introduction of companion legislation in the US House is expected soon.