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American Voters Support Research to Expand U.S. Open Ocean Aquaculture Sustainably and Responsibly, New Poll Finds

American Voters Support Research to Expand U.S. Open Ocean Aquaculture Sustainably and Responsibly, New Poll Finds

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By: Environmental Defense Fund

As summer heats up and Americans turn to grilling their fish fillets and gathering for clam bakes, a new poll released by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reveals voters are open to growing more seafood in U.S. waters if it adheres to strong consumer and environmental standards.

According to the poll, 76% of U.S. voters support researching the expansion of open ocean aquaculture, which is included in the Science-based Equitable Aquaculture Food (SEAfood) Act and favor expanding farmed seafood, also known as aquaculture, into the open ocean off the U.S. coast.

Recognizing that the vast majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and half of that is farmed, voters surveyed expressed the desire to ensure that the seafood they consume is safe and healthy and that the economic benefits from farming seafood can be realized at home. Eighty-two percent of voters said that research can help ensure the safety of the seafood we consume.

memo of the results is available online.

The poll builds on a previous EDF poll from 2021 that revealed voters are open to consuming more farmed seafood if it is produced in the U.S. and is subject to strong environmental and consumer standards.

“The findings give us greater clarity on the concerns and information voters need about aquaculture before they feel comfortable showing support for it.” said Kate Bonzon, Vice President of Climate Resilient Fisheries and Oceans at EDF. “The U.S. should follow the science and invest in the research necessary to ensure open ocean aquaculture is done right from the start.”

Most voters place the economy at the top of their concerns with 62% saying that they are “very concerned” with the economy and 76% being “very concerned” about their own cost of living.  Voters see the potential for aquaculture to mitigate economic issues, and largely agree that doing the research to understand how to do aquaculture sustainably in U.S. open ocean waters will expand economic opportunity.

The poll also shows voters prefer a candidate who supports research into the benefits and risks of aquaculture over one who doesn’t by a 2-to-1 margin, regardless of party affiliation.

“The U.S. could set a high bar for aquaculture sustainability standards, much like they have done for fisheries management, and it is clear that voters want to see research as the foundation for these standards,” said Bonzon. “Leading with science puts the U.S. in a better position to meet consumer demand, support local economies and livelihoods, complement our fisheries, and produce low-carbon food.”

EDF supports efforts to research the sustainable development of open ocean aquaculture and has endorsed the SEAfood Act. The bill charts a responsible, science-based path forward for growing healthy, sustainable seafood in open ocean waters in the U.S. by:

✓ Charging the Government Accountability Office with producing a report that details permitting, monitoring, and regulatory options for governing open ocean aquaculture in the U.S.;

✓ Directing the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to complete a study on the scientific basis for efficient and effective regulation of open ocean aquaculture;

✓ Authorizing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create an open ocean aquaculture assessment program that prioritizes research and transparency using on-the-water projects that are operated in partnership with land and sea grant institutions; and

✓ Creating a grant program, under NOAA, for minority-serving educational institutions to establish aquaculture centers of excellence that meet the needs of a growing domestic and sustainable aquaculture industry, including developing or enhancing undergraduate and graduate aquaculture curriculum, career development, and extension programs.

✓ Global Strategy Group conducted the survey and polled 800 registered voters in New York (statewide), Florida (statewide), coastal California ZIP Codes, coastal Texas ZIP Codes, ME-01, SC-01, WA-01, WA-06, and LA-06 between Jan. 25 and Jan. 29, 2024. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.5%.

 About Environmental Defense Fund  

One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund

Media Contact:

Maddie Voorhees (she/her)
Communications Director, Climate Resilient Fisheries and Oceans

Environmental Defense Fund  

T: (415) 293-6103

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