Last June 12, representatives Kat Cammack, Ed Case and Mike Ezell reintroduced in the 118th Congress of the United States (US), the bipartisan Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act in a new attempt to obtain its approval. The platform Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) “commends Representatives for helping educate other Members of Congress about the need for federal legislation to establish a federal permitting process for offshore aquaculture in the US,” said Drue Banta Winters, Campaign Manager of the organization.
The House bill is companion legislation to the AQUAA Act introduced by US Senators Roger Wicker and Brian Schatz last week. Earlier this year, the White House issued their Ocean Climate Action Plan that calls for the expansion of sustainable US aquaculture production.
As the platform SATS reported, the bicameral AQUAA Act would establish National Standards for offshore aquaculture and clarify a regulatory system for the farming of fish in the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The bill would also establish a research and technology grant program to fund innovative research and extension services focused on improving and advancing sustainable domestic aquaculture.
“Establishing a robust American aquaculture industry would help address many of the pressing issues we face today,” said Banta Winters. “From strengthening the seafood supply chain, to creating new jobs in American communities, and helping grow more sustainable protein here at home as climate change threatens wild stocks, offshore aquaculture would provide many benefits for our nation.”
For her part, Cammack assured “aquaculture should be one of our priorities as we grow our focus on food security. In Florida, we’ve seen the benefits of aquaculture firsthand—breeding, raising, and harvesting shellfish, fish, and aquatic plants in our waters. We’ve demonstrated that it’s possible to provide healthy, fresh food that’s produced sustainably at home to support our growing population,” said Cammack.
US ranks only 17th in aquaculture production
According to SATS, due to inefficient federal permitting processes, the US ranks only 17th in aquaculture production and imports up to 80% of the seafood we consume from overseas. Until federal legislation is passed, the growth of an American offshore aquaculture industry will continue to be hindered due to lack of regulatory certainty for investors.
An expanded aquaculture industry in the US would create a plethora of jobs in the farming states that grow the fish feed; in coastal states with working waterfronts; in labs and research facilities and in retail. Locally grown seafood would feed a growing population that is projected to be 8.5 billion by 2030.
A confusing and often contradicting regulatory scheme
The member of the US House of Representatives from Florida added that her colleagues share the same enthusiasm “for growing our domestic aquaculture industries and improving our infrastructure to feed the American population.”
In that sense, Case, the Member of the US House of Representatives from Hawaii said: “For decades we have pursued the promise of open ocean aquaculture as part of our larger goal of sustainable management of our marine resources. States like Hawai’i have led the way in developing sustainable and safe aquaculture in state waters, but development in federal waters throughout our exclusive economic zone has been hampered by a confusing and often contradicting regulatory scheme that does not sufficiently protect our marine environment,”.
“Our bipartisan, bicameral AQUAA Act would provide a consistent efficient regulatory umbrella to help fully unlock the potential of open ocean aquaculture in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive and science-based way and grow economies for coastal states and food security for the nation,” he added.
AQUAA Act will create blue economy jobs
Finally, Ezell, Member of the US House of Representatives from Mississippi, said: “In order to meet the demand for fresh, American seafood, we must find ways to increase aquaculture production across our coastal states and communities,” said Rep. Ezell. “I’m proud to cosponsor the AQUAA Act that will create blue economy jobs along the Gulf Coast while protecting our most precious resources.”
It’s important to remember that Stronger America Through Seafood advocates for federal policies and regulations that help secure a stronger America through increased US production of healthful, sustainable, and affordable seafood.