What It Was
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing titled, “Growing The Future: Opportunities To Support Domestic Seafood Through Aquaculture.”
Why It Matters
Seafood is a valuable staple for many Americans, and advances in research have made it possible to produce fish and shellfish through aquaculture. A balance of fishing and growing seafood is important for ocean health, food stability, and economic security. Addressing industry challenges, investing in research, and embracing innovation are vital to expanding production.
Despite having a robust commercial fishing industry, the U.S. imports nearly 90 percent of our seafood, which includes products that are farmed. Witnesses and members of the committee agreed increased aquaculture in the U.S. would provide food security, job opportunities, innovation prospects, and economic growth.
Fish and shellfish can be raised in several environments, including ponds, tanks, and open water pens, which creates production opportunities for inland and coastal communities. Witnesses identified several challenges for growing the U.S. aquaculture industry, including uncertainty of obtaining federal permits, complexity of the environmental review process and expertise of agencies involved, lack of authority to operate in the exclusive economic zone, and the necessity for federal investment to continue research and innovation.
A main focus was on benefits to the coastal economy and human health, but the discussion also highlighted major industry advances to minimize environmental impacts, the increased potential for public-private partnerships, and the risks associated with importing product. Overall, there was bipartisan support for growing the blue economy and strong interest in expanding seafood production in the U.S.
“Domestic farming of seafood, done in a safe, well-monitored manner, can provide economic opportunities for all Americans, both for our coastal and inland communities.” – Chairman John Thune (SD)
“Permitting marine aquaculture is not a simple matter. Any type of permitting framework needs to ensure that we avoid harmful effects of waste discharge, fish disease, chemical and drug use, escapes and invasive species.” – Ranking Member Bill Nelson (FL)
“The lack of a federal management framework to grow fish in the Exclusive Economic Zone is a significant barrier to reaching this goal and presents an almost insurmountable barrier to investors that would rather invest in farms in other countries and import the product into our markets.” – Mr. Donald Kent (President and CEO, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute)
“Advancement of aquaculture, especially selective breeding, health management, and culture techniques, can take multiple years for significant gains and long-term funding programs will be critical to success.” – Dr. Kelly Lucas (Director, Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center)
The hearing was held to gather information.
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