A lot to learn from North Carolina

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
February 13, 2011

The U.S. government took a big step in the right direction last week when it released a draft of its much-anticipated national aquaculture policy, which will guide fish-farming activities and provide a unified approach to supporting sustainable aquaculture.

Anyone involved in fish farming knows just how disjointed the country’s position on aquaculture is and just how thorny and lengthy the permitting process can be. According to Andy Goodwin, associate director of the aquaculture program at University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, there’s one Arkansas fish farm that deals with 67 agencies. If that doesn’t scream bureaucracy, I don’t know what does.

Launching and maintaining a successful fish-farming business was the foundation of last week’s North Carolina Aquaculture Development Conference in Atlantic Beach, N.C. I had the pleasure of speaking at the 23rd annual event and I came away with an appreciation of the support and outreach provided to fish farmers from various state entities, including North Carolina State University, North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, North Carolina Sea Grant and North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation.

Now, the state is by no means an aquaculture powerhouse, especially when compared to fish-farming giants such as China, which alone represents more than 60 percent of the world’s farmed seafood production. But the state’s aquaculture industry is well established and diverse, and the rest of the United States has a lot to learn from its productivity.

Last year, the value of North Carolina’s farmed seafood output jumped 6 percent to USD 31.8 million (EUR 23.6 million), even during an economic slump. The state has 126 seafood farmers, including 71 trout farmers, 21 catfish farmers, 13 hybrid striped bass farmers, 10 tilapia farmers and 10 freshwater prawn farmers.

There are also signs in Europe of bureaucracy being more supportive of aquaculture. Last year, politicians called on the European Parliament to streamline regulation.

Doing so in both the United States and European Union may be a necessity in the not-so-distant future, because the middle class in emerging countries like China and India is booming. One account has China’s middle class growing 75 percent, or 372 million, by 2025; that’s greater than the current U.S. population. The wealthier China and India get, the more seafood they’ll consume.

Now’s the time for governments in industrialized countries to reverse the unfriendly business environment that fish farmers — new and established — cope with now. So don’t hesitate and submit your input on the U.S. aquaculture policy by 11 April when the public comment period ends. The future of the U.S. aquaculture depends on it.

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