A bill aimed at developing a viable offshore aquaculture industry in the United States is getting a second shot, with legislators -- one from land-locked Minnesota, one from Mississippi -- putting it forward once again.
US Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-MS) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) on Wednesday re-introduced the “Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act," or the AQUAA Act.
The bill seeks to increase the United States’ involvement in the aquaculture industry by enabling its development in federal waters, which extend from 12 miles offshore through to 200 miles offshore.
The act could "usher in a wave of American aquaculture," Palazzo said, citing the country's over-dependence on foreign seafood.
The bill also aims to create an Office of Marine Aquaculture within the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) headquarters and regional offices to lead coordinating the federal permitting process.
The Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) trade group, a vocal proponent of the bill in Washington DC, lauded Palazzo's reintroduction of the measure on Wednesday.
“A predictable regulatory framework and national standards for aquaculture production are critical to the competitiveness of the American seafood industry, which currently faces a seafood trade deficit of $14 billion (€12.4 billion),” said Bill DiMento, president of SATS and vice president of corporate sustainability and government affairs at High Liner Foods.
The SATS is a broad coalition of companies that includes Cargill, Pacific Seafood, Taylor Shellfish, Pontos Aqua Advisory, Sysco, Pentair, High Liner Foods, Red Lobster, Fortune International, Taylor Shellfish, InnovaSea and Beaver Street Fisheries.
Advocates say the lack of a predictable, affordable and efficient permitting process for offshore aquaculture in the US has led many American companies to establish operations overseas.
Different from previous versions
Margaret Henderson, campaign manager for SATs told IntraFish the bill is different from the versions introduced two years ago. One notable difference is including national standards "that establish a framework for launching a new US industry while ensuring the environment, coastal communities, other ocean stakeholders and the public either benefit or aren’t adversely impacted by it," she said.
Another important addition is the bill would establish "aquaculture enterprise zones," which are areas within the US federal Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that could be identified for priority permitting and aquaculture development.
The new version also includes specific language addressing sustainability of marine feed ingredients and other sustainability standards for the supply chain, she said.