US releases draft aquaculture policies

10 Feb 2011
Microalgae tanks which supply a steady supply of nutrients for young oysters. Credit: NOAA Aquaculture Program

Microalgae tanks which supply a steady supply of nutrients for young oysters. Credit: NOAA Aquaculture Program

The US Department of Commerce and NOAA have released draft national aquaculture policies that support sustainable marine aquaculture.

The aim of the policies is to increase the US supply of healthy seafood, create jobs, spur innovation in technology, and help restore depleted species and marine habitats.

Aquaculture is playing a significant and growing role in global food production. Already, nearly half the fish consumed by people is produced by aquaculture, and a significant portion of future increases in the global seafood supply will come from aquaculture. In the US, some 84% of the seafood Americans eat is imported, and about half of those imports are aquaculture products. The domestic aquaculture industry supplies only about 5% of the seafood Americans consume.

Once in place, NOAA says the aquaculture policies will benefit the industry by outlining how NOAA plans to fund research into innovative aquaculture technologies, work with partners to create job initiatives that encourage the growth of the industry, and grant access to favourable sites for aquaculture facilities.

The draft NOAA policy (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/policy2/comments.htm) provides guidance for NOAA’s actions regarding the development of all forms of marine aquaculture, from shellfish farming and habitat restoration to the culture of marine fish and algae on land and offshore. The policy provides a national approach for supporting sustainable commercial production, expanding restoration aquaculture, and researching and developing new technologies, and is part of NOAA’s national approach to sustainable seafood, which encompasses both aquaculture and capture fisheries.

The Commerce and NOAA draft policies echo several priorities of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy, including the emphasis on protecting, maintaining and restoring healthy and diverse ecosystems; supporting sustainable uses of the ocean; and increasing scientific understanding and applying that knowledge to make better decisions.

Commerce and NOAA are accepting comments on the draft policies until 11 April.Directions for submitting comments online are at http://aquaculture.noaa.gov.

After the submitted comments have been reviewed, Commerce and NOAA will issue final national aquaculture policies.

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