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Senators urged to back ‘critical step’ for US aquaculture

From left: Senators Roger Wicker, Brian Schatz and Marco Rubio are sponsoring the AQUAA Act. Image: SATS.
From left: Senators Roger Wicker, Brian Schatz and Marco Rubio are sponsoring the AQUAA Act. Image: SATS.

More than 80 American companies, organisations and individuals have signed a letter urging US senators to support a cross-party aquaculture bill.

The letter, delivered to all members of the Senate, the upper house of the US Congress, seeks backing for the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, which is described as “a critical first step towards supporting sustainable marine aquaculture, and the future of US seafood production”.

Signatories include Stephanie Quah, managing director of Cargill Aqua Nutrition in north America; David Kelly, chief executive of fish farming equipment supplier InnovaSea; and Wally Stevens, executive director of the Global Aquaculture Alliance.

Seafood wholesalers, tech companies, shellfish farmers, academics and venture capital investors have also added their names to the letter, which has been sent by pro-aquaculture group Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS).

Lagging behind

The group points out that the US lags far behind the rest of the world in farmed seafood products.

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

“To remedy these challenges, the AQUAA Act establishes a clear permitting process for US marine aquaculture that also prioritises environmental and societal health.”

Ripple effects

The letter claims that in addition to increasing the supply of healthy and sustainable American-raised seafood, growth of US domestic aquaculture is an opportunity to revitalise the seafood industry which has been hard hit by the effects of Covid-19, and will also have ripple effects throughout many areas of the country.

“Increased aquaculture production will lead to increased demand for American-grown crops which can be used in plant-based fish feed, such as soybeans, corn and peas, will open up new markets to heartland farmers and lessen dependence on the uncertainty of foreign trade relationships,” say the letter’s authors.

“For the US to continue to expand the aquaculture industry and tap into the full economic potential that aquaculture can provide, Congress needs to further solidify the regulatory framework, provide clear guidance, and allocate additional funding through new legislation.”

Sustainable growth

The letter urges senators to contact the sponsors of the AQUAA Act, senators Roger Wicker (Republican, Mississippi), Brian Schatz (Democrat, Hawaii) or Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida) to learn how the bill “will help create jobs and drive sustainable, economic growth in your communities”.

See the complete text and signatories of the letter here.

A companion bill for the AQUAA Act in Congress’s lower house, the House of Representatives, was introduced by House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (Democrat, Minnesota) and Congressman Steven Palazzo (Republican, Mississippi) in March.