Make American Aquaculture Great (Finally)
Make American Aquaculture Great (Finally). OK, it’s not as catchy as a certain hashtag we all know, but I think it’s one most of us can support. The US has a 3 million square mile ocean economic exclusion zone, the largest in the world, yet our aquaculture industry is not even in the top ten ranking. As a result, Americans import 90% of the seafood we consume! There are a lot of reasons for this, including relatively high costs and a lack of sustained investment, but one of the major ones is non-existent governmental support and the need to wade through a (probably) well-meant but overly cumbersome regulatory and permitting process that involves competing local, state, and federal agencies.
With America’s technical prowess and our abundant ocean resources we could be a leading supplier of many species- among them trout, salmon, and a number of shellfish. While for the rest of the world, farmed fish make up about half of all fish consumed, only 15% of fish produced in the US come from aquaculture. Our annual seafood trade deficit is more than $15B!
Fortunately, good news may be coming. The Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act (AQUAA Act) was introduced in the Senate recently. It seeks to provide support for academic research in aquaculture and to streamline the permitting process. Many of the major companies in the industry and seafood value chain, including Cargill, Sysco, and Red Lobster, have weighed in to support it. Not everyone though. The usual suspects are complaining about the danger that ‘industrial ocean fish farms’ pose to wild fish populations. Someone should explain how every fish that is farm raised means one less wild fish is taken.
If the AQUAA Act is passed, it could potentially jump start the US industry and result in a million ton of premium protein production and up to 50,000 jobs in the industry and supporting areas. If that’s not enough, increased aquaculture will reduce the pressure on already depleted wild fish populations, resulting in a more sustainable ocean environment. How can anyone be against that?