U.S. releases marine aquaculture policy


Steven Hedlund

Published on
June 8, 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Thursday released its national marine aquaculture policy, which will guide agency’s activities with respect to fish farming and provide a national approach to supporting sustainable aquaculture. The U.S. Department of Commerce released a similar policy.

Click here to view the policies.

Both U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco emphasized the need for a national marine aquaculture policy.

“Our current trade deficit in seafood is approximately USD 9 billion,” said Locke. “Encouraging and developing the U.S. aquaculture industry will result in  economic growth and create jobs at home, support exports to global markets and spur new innovations in technology to support the industry.”

“Sustainable domestic aquaculture can help us meet the increasing demand for seafood and create jobs in our coastal communities,” added Lubchenco. “Our vision is that domestic aquaculture will provide an additional source of healthy seafood to complement wild fisheries, while supporting healthy ecosystems and coastal economies.”

According to NOAA, the policy:
• encourages and fosters sustainable aquaculture that increases the value of domestic aquaculture production and creates American business, jobs, and trade opportunities;
• makes timely management decisions based on the best scientific information available;
• advances sustainable aquaculture science;
• ensures aquaculture decisions protect wild species and healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems;
• develops sustainable aquaculture compatible with other uses;
• works with partners domestically and internationally; and
• promotes a level playing field for U.S. aquaculture businesses engaged in international trade, working to remove foreign trade barriers and enforcing our rights under U.S. trade agreements.

The policy does not carry the force of law. It follows a 60-day public comment period that ended on 11 April. Darden Restaurants, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Kona Blue Water Farms, the National Aquaculture Association and Ocean Conservancy were among the dozens of companies and organizations that submitted comment. Click here to view the comments and a draft of the policy.

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, 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.

In 2009, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to allow open-ocean aquaculture and establish a permitting process to farm fish native to the Gulf in underwater cages. Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries, said during Thursday’s press briefing that the agencies will work together to ensure that the council’s process is consistent with the national marine aquaculture policy.

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