Kanpachi swimming in a farm operated by Blue Ocean Mariculture off the coast of Hawaii, one of the few parts of the US where open ocean farming takes place.

New push made for clearer US aquaculture laws


American aquaculture supporters are visiting Washington DC this week to push for legislators to establish strong environmental and social standards that can be used to develop a thriving open ocean aquaculture sector in the United States.

The Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture (CSA), which has a diverse membership comprising chefs, fishers, seafood farmers, industry, and environmental advocates, wants a science-based, stakeholder-led approach to legislation.

Its members include the Netherlands-based sustainable aquaculture investor AquaSpark, and Blue Ocean Mariculture, which grows kanpachi (seriola rivioliana) in submersible pens off Keahole Point in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

SEAfood Act

The CSA supports a proposed Science-based Equitable Aquaculture Food Act (SEAfood Act) that it says charts a responsible path forward for growing healthy, sustainable seafood in open ocean waters.

The coalition says the development of open ocean aquaculture can help meet the growing demand for homegrown seafood and add stability to the domestic seafood supply chain, but that the US currently lacks a comprehensive federal regulatory framework with the requisite strong standards needed for sustainable, equitable, and profitable open ocean aquaculture.

“We are working to ensure safe and environmentally responsible access to valuable nutritious (and delicious) resources, and we hope to talk to many offices about how the SEAfood Act can play an important role in the US’s safe, sustainable seafood industry,” said CSA member Dr Chris Vogliano, co-founder and director of global research at Food and Planet, a non-profit company engaging health professionals to be leaders in sustainable food systems.

Science-based approach

The CSA acknowledges that there are real concerns about open ocean aquaculture and says this is why it is committed to working with lawmakers and other partners to chart a science-based and stakeholder-led approach.

It is advocating for the SEAfood Act because it will:

  • Charge the Government Accountability Office with producing a report that details permitting, monitoring, and regulatory options for governing open ocean aquaculture in the US;
  • Direct the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to complete a study on the scientific basis for efficient and effective regulation of open ocean aquaculture;
  • Authorise the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create an open ocean aquaculture assessment programme that prioritises research and transparency using on-the-water projects and are operated in partnership with land and sea grant institutions, and;
  • Create a grant programme, under NOAA, for minority-serving educational institutions to establish aquaculture centres of excellence that meet the needs of a growing domestic and sustainable aquaculture industry including developing or enhancing an undergraduate and graduate aquaculture curriculum, career development, and extension programmes.

Stringent regulations

CSA fishermen want members of Congress and their staff to know that US aquaculture can and should develop as a complement to wild fisheries so that more domestic seafood can be made available for more Americans.

“As fishermen, we value the ability to provide and access delicious seafood. Developing US aquaculture is an opportunity to offer Americans more protein-rich seafood, but it needs to be done through a transparent process with stringent regulations that allow consumers to feel confident in what they buy and feed their families,” said Captain Jim Green, president of the Charter Fisherman’s Association.

Coalition members will have the opportunity to share their experiences and relevant concerns with decision-makers. CSA chefs and seafood industry members want to ensure that they, their customers, and their communities have access to sustainably sourced seafood for generations.

“Our company is investing in wild, local West Coast seafood, but a key factor we can do so is because the US has such strong federal fisheries management,” said Peter Adame, communications and sustainability director for Lusamerica, a seafood wholesaler based in California and Washington. “We’re excited to be in DC because we want to see the same strong management reflected with aquaculture.”