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NFI Forum - Seafood industry's future is tied to aquaculture
May 01, 2005
Most Americans’ vision of aquaculture might be a scene from an old sci-fi thriller about an underwater universe of farmed plants and animals. In reality, farmers have been growing water plants and animals for thousands of years. And aquaculture is the fastest-growing segment of agriculture in the United States.
Whether they know it or not, five of the top 10 species of fish Americans like to eat are at least partially farmed. That list includes shrimp, salmon, catfish, tilapia and clams. The global impact of aquaculture is even more dramatic. The National Marine Fisheries Service reports global aquaculture harvests increased from about 13 million metric tons in 1991, to 42 million metric tons in 2003, or 340 percent growth.
With its significant reach into economies around the world and right here in the United States, aquaculture is among the National Fisheries Institute’s top priorities for 2005. We are committed to promoting public policy wherein aquaculture is a complement to wild capture fisheries, whether in the United States or elsewhere.
Products created through aquaculture are sustainable sources of food that help seafood buyers meet the ever- growing demand for seafood around the world. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has identified a substantial gap in the industry’s ability to meet the growing demand for healthy seafood products. According to the FAO, there are 100 million metric tons of fish available in the wild, yet the global demand for these products is about 180 million metric tons. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that between 1980 and 2000, the value of U.S. aquaculture production rose more than 400 percent, to nearly $1 billion.
Responsible aquaculture practices allow increasing numbers of Americans to enjoy healthy fish meals. We all know balanced nutrition is an important issue to many Americans. But over the past couple of years, the aquaculture industry has been bombarded by political-activist groups trying to turn consumers away from farmed seafood, causing them to forego an important part of a balanced diet.
Now NFI is stepping in to tell the truth to Americans about aquaculture. NFI recently strengthened its communications and advocacy team, which has started to forcefully counter messages from political activists through thoughtful dialogue with the news media reminding Americans that seafood remains an important part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
NFI’s ocean-to-table membership diversity allows us to speak with authority to lawmakers and impact public policy in a way that will help secure a healthy future for all Americans. Now, more than ever, we have evidence that fish is an essential part of a healthy diet and we must never lose sight of that important fact.
Our members are committed to helping ensure these products continue to be a sustainable and environmentally sound resource for future generations. That’s why NFI and the Global Aquaculture Alliance developed the Principles for Responsible Fisheries in 1997, to help ensure our industry does not adversely affect surrounding ecosystems or damage native species.
Aquaculture is a significant part of our industry’s future. We will need to grow about 40 to 45 percent of our fish annually to meet consumer demand while protecting wild harvests. An informed, educated and involved consumer will sustain the seafood industry and its products well into the future.