- Requested USD 25 million in annual funding
Industry coalition Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) reported a few days ago that have sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the United States (US) House and US Senate Committees on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies urging Congress to support annual funding for NOAA Fisheries’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)’s Aquaculture Office in the fiscal year 2024 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act.
The letter requests that the Committee support the requested USD 25 million in annual funding for the NMFS’s Aquaculture Office, which includes funding for NOAA’s 5-Year Strategic Plan for Aquaculture that will guide the agency’s efforts to enhance the growth of sustainable US aquaculture from 2023-2028.
The requested funding would also support the agency’s continued work on Aquaculture Opportunity Areas, environmental assessments, science-based tools and modeling and increased economic development programs – all of which support the growth of an American aquaculture industry.
In addition to the funding request, SATS also asks that the Committee include specific language within the related Explanatory Statement of the CJS Appropriations Act stating the Committee recognizes the significant potential for development of American offshore aquaculture to increase US production of healthful, sustainable and affordable seafood.
“The funding requested for the NMFS Aquaculture Office is essential to supporting growth of the American aquaculture industry,” said Drue Banta Winters, Campaign Manager of SATS. “By prioritizing domestic aquaculture, Congress 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. We strongly urge Members of Congress to provide the necessary funding required to establish a robust American aquaculture industry to increase our domestic supply of healthful, sustainable, and affordable seafood.”
Five-year strategic plan
The National Marine Fisheries Service Aquaculture Program recently announced a five-year strategic plan laying out a framework to “help achieve a robust, thriving, and diverse US aquaculture industry as part of a resilient seafood sector.” They continue to work actively coordinating across agencies towards a comprehensive regulatory foundation for aquaculture.
As stated in the letter, this process includes siting analysis for future Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) in federal waters, interagency coordination on National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), development of science-based tools and modeling, and associated economic development programs like workforce training and community planning activities which will ensure the economic benefits of aquaculture are realized across all stakeholder groups.
The program needs additional funds to adequately fulfill its mission, and they believe a funding level of USD 25 million will meet these needs, they explained in the letter.
Far behind the rest of the world
According to SATS, today the US lags far behind the rest of the world in farmed seafood production. 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, resulting in the US importing at least 70% of its seafood.
“By prioritizing 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,” they said in the letter.
Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) advocates for federal policies and regulations that help secure a stronger America through increased U.S. production of healthful, sustainable, and affordable seafood. To learn more about this initiative you can go to www.strongerthroughseafood.org.