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Weekly Overview: How do we Grow the US Aquaculture Industry?

Lucy Towers
11 February 2014, at 12:00am

ANALYSIS - This week TheFishSite.com is in Seattle, USA, for the Aquaculture America show. One of the first presentations of the day discussed one of the biggest issues the US is facing: How to grow the aquaculture industry in the US? Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor reports, live from the show.

First on the panel, Brian Nerrie, Aquaculture Extension Specialist, set the scene, mentioning how the US has the biggest amount of land and water available for aquaculture than any of the top aquaculture producing countries. Yet, despite this, the US slipped down to 13th place on the aquaculture production list.

Speaking on behalf of the USDA, Max Holtzman stated that the government is trying to streamline the permitting process for new people to join the industry. However, he stated that the industry must stand together as one if anything is going to progress and the disagreement between various sectors in the aquaculture industry is not helping the industry become strong and competitive like the US agriculture industry.

Whilst Mr Holtzman explained the support of the government, many of the other panel members stated that regulations and policies are the biggest hurdles to increasing aquaculture. A regulatory maze means that most of the aquaculture innovations and technology developed in the US are sent abroad. Some of the panel also called for a review of aquaculture policies, which farmers must participate in, a new permitting programme and an active aquaculture association in Washington DC. However, at present there is no political motivation for change, said Daniel Benetti, University of Miami, Florida.

Addressing how consumers fit in with increasing aquaculture production in the US, Roy Palmer, World Aquaculture Society, Australia, stated that the industry needs to create more demand for its products as, at present, there is a huge lack of knowledge in consumers, retailers and chefs about how to prepare and cook fish.

“It is important that we give consumers what they want,” said Mr Palmer. Consumers are also asking more questions, so it is important that retailers are trained and knowledgeable in order to answer questions and promote the products.

It is clear that the US has everything it needs to be able to increase aquaculture; it has the market, the research, the technology, the space, the capital and the knowledge. However, most of the panel agreed that the industry needs to work together as a whole to deliver a powerful presence, especially in Washing DC.