US aquaculture policies released

Pictured here is oyster aquaculture in Bodega Bay, California. Credit: NOAA Pictured here is oyster aquaculture in Bodega Bay, California. Credit: NOAA
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The US Department of Commerce and NOAA have released national sustainable marine aquaculture policies to meet growing demand for seafood, to create jobs in coastal communities, and restore vital ecosystems.

Foreign aquaculture accounts for about half of the 84% of seafood imported by the US, contributing to the $9 billion trade deficit in seafood.

“Sustainable domestic aquaculture can help us meet the increasing demand for seafood and create jobs in our coastal communities,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Our vision is that domestic aquaculture will provide an additional source of healthy seafood to complement wild fisheries, while supporting healthy ecosystems and coastal economies.”

The new aquaculture policies, which reflect the public comments received after draft policies were released on 9 February, focus on:

  • Encouraging and fostering sustainable aquaculture that increases the value of domestic aquaculture production and creates American business, jobs, and trade opportunities
  • Making timely management decisions based on the best scientific information available
  • Advancing sustainable aquaculture science
  • Ensuring aquaculture decisions protect wild species and healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems
  • Developing sustainable aquaculture compatible with other uses
  • Working with partners domestically and internationally
  • Promoting a level playing field for US aquaculture businesses engaged in international trade, working to remove foreign trade barriers, and enforcing rights under US trade agreements

Along with its new policy, the Department and NOAA announced additional steps in the future to support the development of the aquaculture industry through:

  • Developing a National Shellfish Initiative in partnership with the shellfish industry toincrease commercial production of shellfish, which would create jobs, provide locally-produced food, restore shellfish populations and habitats, and improve water quality
  • Implementing the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Plan for Aquaculture, which includes the regulatory infrastructure needed for offshore aquaculture development in the Gulf

The domestic aquaculture industry (both freshwater and marine) currently supplies about five percent of the seafood consumed in the US. The cultivation of shellfish, such as oysters, clams, and mussels, comprises about two-thirds of US marine aquaculture production. Salmon and shrimp aquaculture contribute about 25% and 10%, respectively. Current production takes place mainly on land, in ponds, and in states’ coastal waters.

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