Saturday, September 26, 2020

Creating National Standards for Aquaculture

Washington, D.C. - September 26, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- On September 24, 2020, Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act (S. 4723) in the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan AQUAA Act, which has companion legislation in the U.S. House, would support development of an offshore aquaculture industry in the U.S. to increase the production of sustainable seafood and establish new economic opportunities in federal waters.

"The expansion of domestic offshore aquaculture is a win-win for American communities nationwide," said Bill DiMento, president of Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) and vice president of Corporate Sustainability and Government Affairs at High Liner Foods. "Growth of the American aquaculture industry would create new jobs, provide new business opportunities and grow our economy as our country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the opportunities that aquaculture can provide American communities, there is growing bipartisan support and momentum for federal action on aquaculture."

The AQUAA Act would establish National Standards for offshore aquaculture and clarify a regulatory system for the development of aquaculture in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The legislation would also establish a research and technology grant program to fund innovative research and extension services focused on improving and advancing sustainable domestic aquaculture.

The expansion of aquaculture, one of the most resource efficient methods of producing animal protein, would complement the wild fish sector to meet growing demand for American seafood while protecting our fisheries and natural resources. In addition to boosting growth for the seafood industry, American aquaculture would provide a new market for U.S. farmers, specifically for crops such soybeans, corn and peas, which can be used to create fish feed and ease pressure on ocean resources.

"With our extended coastline, expansive ocean resources, skilled labor force, superior technology, and ample feed sources, the U.S. has the potential to be a global leader for aquaculture production. However, our potential will remain untapped unless and until federal action is taken to clarify the permitting process. SATS applauds Senators Wicker, Schatz and Rubio for working across party lines to bring awareness and encourage debate in Congress on the topic of expanding domestic aquaculture," DiMento concluded.

Tony Dal Ponte, vice president of SATS and general counsel at Pacific Seafood, said, "Expanding domestic aquaculture can help give a much needed boost to the American economy. A clear, predictable regulatory framework will benefit not just the seafood industry, but also the coastal communities who rely on it to support their local economies and provide stable, year-round employment opportunities."

"Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector, but the U.S. lacks a comprehensive, nationwide system for permitting in federal waters," said Senator Wicker. "This deficiency prevents the development of aquaculture farms, leading to more seafood imports. Our legislation would establish national standards for offshore aquaculture, enabling U.S. producers to create jobs and meet the growing demand for fresh, local seafood."

"Hawaii leads the nation in modern and traditional aquaculture practices," said Senator Schatz. "With this bipartisan bill, we can expand aquaculture opportunities, opening suitable federal waters for responsible growers. It will create new jobs, spur economic growth in our coastal communities, and ensure our oceans are managed sustainably now and in the future."

"Marine aquaculture presents an enormous opportunity for Florida's economy and for the food security of our nation," said Senator Rubio. "I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation, alongside Senators Wicker and Schatz, that would streamline the rules for this important industry and responsibly promote its success."

The companion bill for The AQUAA Act in the U.S. House, H.R. 6191, was introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D, MN-7) and Congressman Steven Palazzo (R, MS-4) in March 2020. The AQUAA Act complements the May 2020 Presidential Executive Order on American Seafood Competitiveness, which outlines a process for developing Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in federal waters, a key to supporting a domestic offshore aquaculture industry.

Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) advocates for policies and regulations that help secure a stronger America through increased U.S. production of healthful, sustainable, and affordable seafood.