The U.S. aquaculture advocacy group, Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS), has initiated a new campaign titled “Essential Aquaculture” to urge Congress to take prompt action in expanding aquaculture in the country. The campaign specifically emphasizes the need for Congress to establish a clear regulatory pathway for permitting offshore aquaculture.
Challenges in aquaculture growth
SATS highlights that offshore aquaculture in the United States faces obstacles due to complex and inconsistent regulations, impeding its potential for growth. Currently, American aquaculture only meets 5 to 7 percent of seafood demand, with the nation heavily reliant on seafood imports amounting to 90 percent.
By addressing regulatory hurdles and implementing sustainable offshore aquaculture practices, federal lawmakers can significantly increase domestic seafood production, reinvigorating the American seafood industry, and benefiting the economy, industries, and communities nationwide.
Meeting seafood demand with aquaculture
According to SATS, the organization estimates that an additional 40 million metric tons (MT) of seafood will be required to meet current demand trends by 2030. This need will be even greater as the global population is projected to reach approximately 9.5 billion by 2050. Aquaculture presents a unique opportunity to meet the growing demand for seafood. It can help bridge the gap by increasing seafood production in a sustainable manner.
Supporting diverse workforce and climate resilience
In a letter addressed to U.S. President Joe Biden, various SATS members expressed their belief that aquaculture can play a vital role in building a resilient American seafood future. They emphasized how expanding aquaculture would support a diverse workforce, enhance sustainable ecosystems, and ensure a consistent supply of healthy, locally-sourced protein for American consumers.
Moreover, by increasing domestic seafood production through aquaculture, new markets would be created for American-grown crops such as soybeans, corn, and peas, reducing dependence on uncertain foreign trade relationships.
Alignment with climate change initiatives
While the Biden administration has not made any definitive statements regarding aquaculture support, senior officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest that the administration’s emphasis on addressing climate change aligns well with supporting the domestic seafood industry.
In discussions on resiliency plans, NOAA Fisheries Acting Assistant Administrator Paul Doremus highlighted the potential synergies between the fishing industry and climate interests. Increasing the role of seafood in the climate-resilient food future is seen as crucial for overall climate resilience.
Opportunities for offshore expansion
Doremus, a proponent of aquaculture expansion, particularly offshore expansion, believes that the coastal zone is becoming overcrowded and challenging for nearshore production. He asserts that advancements in technology enable efficient and scalable offshore fish farming, reducing risks and costs associated with nearshore environments.
Doremus emphasizes the importance of utilizing promising aquaculture technologies within the United States rather than exporting them to other countries. He envisions the United States becoming a significant producer in the global aquaculture industry.
Previous administration support and executive order
Under the previous administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the aquaculture industry and expansion received support. An executive order signed in May 2020 aimed to enhance the competitiveness of the seafood industry, which included provisions to facilitate aquaculture permitting, improve regulatory transparency, establish Aquaculture Opportunity Areas, and update the National Aquaculture Development Plan.
Essential aquaculture campaign and goals
The launch of the Essential Aquaculture campaign includes various resources such as fact sheets, social media shareables, and an infographic. These materials emphasize the importance of aquaculture as a solution to pressing food security and sustainability challenges.
SATS Campaign Manager Margaret Henderson asserts that as Congress addresses critical issues like economic recovery, food security, and environmental concerns, aquaculture should be considered as part of the solution. Expanding American aquaculture is deemed essential to the
U.S. economy, providing new jobs and supporting a diverse workforce. It will ensure a consistent supply of affordable, sustainably produced American-raised seafood, contributing to climate and conservation efforts.
By raising awareness and advocating for Congressional action, the Essential Aquaculture campaign aims to drive the growth and development of the aquaculture industry in the United States, fostering a more secure and sustainable seafood future.