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Point of View: Future of sustainability relies on farmed fish

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By John Connelly
March 01, 2007

Sustainability seems to be the latest catchphrase for the seafood industry in 2007. Yet members of the National Fisheries Institute are taking a closer look at the issue and are debating what seafood sustainability is and what it means for their businesses.

The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as ensuring "that [development methods] meet the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." For seafood, it means catching enough fish to feed families now while conserving enough for the future.

We're at a pivotal point to communicate with our customers and the public about proper management of our oceans. One of the first pieces of legislation to be signed into law this year was the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Renewal of this bill was long overdue and new provisions included in the law will help strengthen the industry's best practices to ensure that ocean resources will provide nutritious fish for our children and grandchildren.

Eight y percent of U.S. fisheries are sustainably managed. And more than 98 percent of the top 10 seafood species that Americans eat come from sources that fisheries scientists report as fully sustainable. This year, NFI is honing in on these stories to help dispel myths perpetuated by opponents of the seafood industry.

For the domestic wild-capture industry to thrive, aquaculture must be a growing part of the equation. Wild fisheries alone cannot meet consumer demand for seafood. As a result, we import a significant amount of seafood, both wild and farmed. Currently, more than 70 percent of the seafood Americans enjoy is imported and at least 40 percent of those imports is farmed.

Farmed seafood takes pressure off of the world's fisheries. Aquaculture meets the gap between what wild stocks can provide sustainably and the growing demand for seafood.

The growth of fish farming is a means of producing healthy, affordable and quality seafood for consumers worldwide. The year 2005 was the first in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the value of U.S. aquaculture sales exceeded $1 billion, and the promise for growth is exponential. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that global aquaculture production must double by 2050 to meet growing demand.

We've now come full circle back to seafood sustainability. Just as in wild capture, fish-farming practices must be carried out in a sustainable manner. NFI encourages companies selling farm-raised products to demonstrate that their farms are sustainable sources of a healthy protein that help retailers and restaurants meet growing demand for seafood. By demonstrating environmental stewardship as technology advances, 
NFI believes its members can ensure healthy seafood products will be available to future generations of consumers.

Be it wild or farmed, organic or conventional, our goal is to provide healthy and sustainable seafood to families around the globe.


John Connelly is president of the National Fisheries Institute in McLean, Va., at www.nfi.org


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