Boston-based company Innovasea's Evolution pen, designed for open ocean use. Innovasea is a member of SATS, which is advocating for continued government funding for a programme to enable offshore finfish farming.

Aquaculture lobby group makes $39m pitch to US Senate

Cash is needed for state agencies' work to cut fish farming red tape and support innovation


Aquaculture industry lobby group Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) has asked US senators to include $25 million (£20m) for continued development of offshore fish farming, including regulatory reform, in next year’s government budget.

SATS wants the money allocated to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Office of Aquaculture to ensure continued funding of its five-year strategic plan to establish a comprehensive regulatory foundation for the sector. Currently, permitting of ocean aquaculture is complex, slow, and the rules and permitting authorities are not standardised throughout the US.

The NMFS process includes siting analysis for future Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) in federal waters, interagency coordination on a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), development of science-based tools and modelling, and associated economic development programs like workforce training and community planning that will ensure the economic benefits of aquaculture are realised across all stakeholder groups.

Significant potential

SATS also wants senators to support offshore aquaculture in the language used in legislation that must be passed to fix next year’s government spending, by saying they recognise “the significant potential for development of American offshore aquaculture to increase US production of healthful, sustainable and affordable seafood”.

Furthermore, SATS wants the Senate’s Appropriations Committee to allocate $14.08m to Ocean and Atmospheric Research (OAR) for its Sea Grant Aquaculture Research programme. Both the NMFS and OAR are part of the US Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

SATS campaign manager Drue Banta Winters has written to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies to press the case for aquaculture funding.

Ignored by Biden

She points out that President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year 25 budget out “zeroes out” (excludes) any money for the Sea Grant Aquaculture Research programme.

“SATS supports this program for its important work to develop and commercialise new technologies for finfish aquaculture and to engineer ocean-based infrastructure,” writes Winters.

“By prioritising domestic aquaculture, you will support the growth of an American seafood community that is resilient to economic and climate changes and is part of a holistic approach to a greater sustainable food strategy.”

According to SATS, the US lags far behind the rest of the world in farmed seafood production, resulting in the country importing up to 85% of its seafood.

“The single biggest reason is the lack of a clear regulatory pathway for permitting new projects, particularly offshore. This challenging reality has forced many American businesses to invest in other countries,” writes Winter.

Read the full text of the SATS request here.