US Senator Roger Wicker files bill to further aquaculture industry
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) has filed a bill that he said would further develop the aquaculture industry in the country.
S. 3138, named the “Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act,” calls for the creation of the Office of Marine Aquaculture within NOAA Fisheries. That office would oversee regulatory issues within NOAA and push for development opportunities to spur aquaculture’s growth, especially within the country’s exclusive economic zones.
“Aquaculture is the fastest-growing sector of the agriculture industry,” Wicker said in a press release. “This bill would give farmers a clear, simplified regulatory path to start new businesses in our coastal communities. The AQUAA Act would also fund needed research to continue the growth and success of this important industry.”
The bill itself twice mentions it aims to address the U.S. seafood trade deficit. It notes that the country imports about 90 percent of the seafood Americans consume, with half of those imports coming from aquaculture.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is listed as a co-sponsor, and a trade group has started a letter-writing campaign to land additional co-sponsors.
Stronger America Through Seafood has sent letters to U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), and Tina Smith (D-Minnesota).
In the group’s letter to Klobuchar, 41 supporters say the current regulatory environment is expensive and confusing as federal, state and local governments claim jurisdiction. Representatives from Cargill, Pacific Seafoods, Sysco, Red Lobster, the National Restaurant Association and the National Fisheries Institute signed the letter, as did representatives from the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
“With your leadership on federal aquaculture policy, our nation’s potential to become a pioneer in sustainable, marine seafood production will become a reality,” the letter said. “As that new reality unfolds, markets for increasingly efficient American fish feeds will expand exponentially, marine-based job creation will abound, and a consistent supply of 100 percent traceable, local, healthful seafood will be made available to American consumers.”
While the bill has significant industry support, it does face opposition. Friends of the Earth claims aquaculture pollutes oceans and the fish harvested from such farms can be unhealthy. The group also cites the August 2017 escape at a Cooke Aquaculture farm in Washington that released more than 263,000 Atlantic salmon into the wild.
“We’ve seen how the industrialization of our oceans results in environmental havoc, and we have seen net pens in state waters cause disastrous fish spills and the deaths of endangered species,” said Hallie Templeton, the group’s senior oceans campaigner in a post on Medium.com. “There is every indication that these floating feedlots will follow suit, endangering the ocean and everything living in and near it for corporate profit.”