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Editor's Note: U.S. aquaculture plan needs support
Fiona Robinson, Associate Publisher/Editor
July 05, 2011
Last month’s Capitol Hill Oceans Week offered a good forum for discussing the status of fisheries, aquaculture and the Gulf oil spill’s remaining effects on the seafood industry. As National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries officials did their meet and greets during the agency’s 36th annual Fish Fry, I should have expected that there was more than just good seafood cooking: They were getting ready to unveil the national marine aquaculture policy the next day (see News Recap print issue, p. 7).
While it’s encouraging to see the agency has a framework in place for aquaculture, now the challenge is helping producers deal with the unwieldy local, state and federal regulations that farms say they are buried under. Bill Dewey, director of public policy and communications at Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, Wash., mentioned the company has been expanding in Canada because it’s too difficult to get permits in the United States.
But even before the policy was unveiled there were some grumblings by environmental groups, some of which believe that marine aquaculture laws should not fall under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act. They contend that additional federal legislation would have to be introduced to govern the sector. If this were to happen it would delay expansion of marine aquaculture for many years — which is exactly what the NGO community wants.
A case for advancing offshore aquaculture is made in this issue’s Point of View by Michael A. Rice, a professor of fisheries and aquaculture at the University of Rhode Island. Rice points out that increased aquaculture is necessary because worldwide seafood demand is surpassing the wild harvest, which has a global maximum sustainable yield of 80 million metric tons.
While the need is evident, there are many things still working against increased domestic aquaculture, including misinformation about fish feeds, antibiotic use and fish waste, to name a few. While the government is busy wrangling with NGOs over policy, a public relations campaign is needed to show the average consumer accurate information and the real benefits of aquaculture in the United States. This type of farming is not hidden behind a high fence, but in prime coastal real estate where taxpayers are vocal and easily swayed by misinformation from anti-aquaculture camps. The PR front needs to work in tandem with policymaking now, or else all progress could be stalled.