Seafood industry applauds Trump’s new executive order, while some groups cry foul

An executive order issued on 7 April by U.S. President Donald Trump containing a number of new mandates intended to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. seafood has drawn widespread praise from the industry, and has been derided by some environmentalists and fishing groups.

The new executive order contains an array of recommendations for wild-caught fisheries, and an extensive set of new tasks for multiple government administrations intended to expand the nation’s aquaculture. The new changes are devoted to removing barriers to permitting, improving regulatory transparency, and establishing new “Aquaculture Opportunity Areas.”

“I am very pleased President Trump has recognized that domestic farmed production of aquaculture seafood is vital to help correct the severe trade imbalance and strengthen local food security. This should be viewed as a call to State and local governments that the country is in dire need of domestically produced seafood protein and that they should find ways to support, promote, and expand this essential food sector as other countries have,” Glenn Cooke, CEO of the Cooke family of companies – including Cooke Aquaculture Inc. – said of the new order. “President Trump and his executive agencies are to be commended for their leadership to address the regulatory challenges with establishing seafood farms by revising the National Aquaculture Development Plan and implementing a nationwide permit authorizing finfish, seaweed, or multi-trophic culture in federal marine waters.”

Sean O’Scannlain, CEO of Fortune International and a board member of Stronger America Through Seafood, a trade group supporting domestic aquaculture efforts, also praised the new executive order.

“Now is the time to embrace new opportunities for American workers and American consumers,” he said. “The U.S. seafood community has long understood the importance of supplementing wild-capture fisheries with sustainably farm-raised seafood. We simply cannot meet the rising global demand for healthful animal protein without farming fish. We need both sustainable, local food and new job opportunities for newly unemployed Americans. Today’s executive action recognizes a need and an innovative, thoughtful program to meet that need using American workers, American technology, and American resources.”

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, said that the order “highlighted the importance of the U.S. seafood community to America’s economy, heritage, and future.”

“We applaud the president for acknowledging this important sector and the American workers it supports,” he said. “We thank him for recognizing the needs identified in today’s order and encourage him to continue to remember the entire seafood value chain, including processors and distributors, during America’s recovery.”

The Northwest Aquaculture Alliance, which represents aquaculture producers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia, Canada, said that the new order has come at a time when the industry is reeling from the impacts of COVID-19, and that it will be a boon to current and future aquaculture operations.

“This is a big moment for aquaculture in this country,” said NWAA Executive Director, Jeanne McKnight. “The United States currently ranks 17th in global production of aquaculture yet imports 85 percent of the seafood we consume – largely from aquaculture. We are pleased that the executive branch of our government recognizes that the time has come to produce this high-quality protein right here at home.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross also applauded the new executive order.

“America is an ocean nation with the laws, the resources, the tools, and the expertise to be a seafood superpower. Unfortunately and unnecessarily, our country overwhelmingly relies on imports to meet our seafood demands,” Ross said in a statement. “Today, President Trump took bold action to secure America’s place as a seafood superpower by removing unnecessary regulations that restrict our seafood industry. This action allows for job creation that will put Americans back to work while prioritizing delivery of safe, sustainable, and healthy food on American tables.”

While the new order drew praise from many within the seafood industry, it has faced opposition from some fishing and environmental groups.

“Instead of supporting the corporate takeover of our oceans while they hope we aren’t paying attention, the President should be focusing on providing immediate support to fishermen and small businesses suffering from the financial impacts of the pandemic,” Rosanna Marie Neil, policy counsel for the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, said of the new order.

Environmental groups added that the government should be pushing sustainable seafood, rather than weaken existing regulation.

“The federal government should strengthen local food security during this health crisis by supporting sustainable seafood, rather than allowing corporations to pollute the ecosystems we depend on,” Marianne Cufone, an environmental attorney and director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, said. “It’s shameful that the president is using the current pandemic to push through dangerous short-cuts to regulatory processes, while communities struggle to stay healthy, pay rent, and put food on the table.”

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelori/Shutterstock 


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