Input sought on U.S. aquaculture policy


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
February 8, 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking public comment on a draft national aquaculture policy, which it released on Wednesday. The policy will guide agency’s activities with respect to fish farming and provide a national approach to supporting sustainable aquaculture.

In the works for months, the policy, according to NOAA, reaffirms the importance of aquaculture, sets the agency’s priorities in four areas (science and research; regulation; innovation, partnerships and outreach; and international cooperation) and “detailed” principles for fish farms in federal waters.

The public comment period runs through 11 April. NOAA’s aquaculture program is also hosting a series of call-in informational briefings this month for stakeholders interested in learning more about the policy.

In a press release that followed the announcement on NOAA’s aquaculture program website, both U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco emphasized the need for a national aquaculture policy.

“Supporting the U.S. aquaculture industry will encourage economic growth and employment opportunities at home, support exports to global markets, and spur new innovations in technology to support the industry,” said Locke.

“If done wisely, aquaculture can complement wild fisheries while contributing to healthy oceans and coastal economies,” added Lubchenco. “As we rebuild wild fish populations, we recognize the world’s demand for safe, healthy seafood will continue to grow. Sustainable aquaculture increases our country’s food security.”

Nearly a year ago, Susan Bunsick, lead policy analyst for NOAA’s aquaculture program, addressed the policy at the World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture 2010 conference in San Diego. “The policy will guide NOAA’s decisions with respect to aquaculture,” she said at the time. “This could include decisions to amend regulations or ask Congress to enact legislation. But the policy in and of itself would not carry the force of law. What it will do is provide context of all of NOAA’s activities related to aquaculture.”

One of the major challenges facing the U.S. open-ocean aquaculture industry is the lack of a regulatory framework in federal waters. In December 2009, U.S. Rep Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would establish such a framework, a move supported by aquaculture advocates such as the Ocean Stewards Institute and some environmental organizations, including Ocean Conservancy. But the bill, titled the National Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2009, failed to advance in Congress and stalled in the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife.

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