For several years, efforts to establish offshore aquaculture in US waters has been stalled in Congress. But Sarah Brenholt, the new campaign manager for the offshore advocacy effort known as Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS) believes there is ample opportunity to move the needle at the federal level this year.

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In November, the fisheries and aquaculture arm of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) identified nine areas in the Gulf of Mexico and 10 areas in the Southern California Bight that may be suitable for offshore aquaculture.

The so-called "Aquaculture Opportunity Areas" are part of former President Trump's executive order designed to streamline fisheries regulations and further the development of offshore aquaculture.

"It's the most comprehensive collection of data that has ever existed in the history of NOAA," Brenholt said of that particular work on offshore aquaculture.

The introduction of the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act in both the US House and Senate ahead of 2022 has also positioned that bill to make potential legislative gains, she added.

"The circumstances are all right for us to move the ball forward," she said.

More collaboration with NGOs

Brenholt told IntraFish her goal this year with SATS is to engage with more environmental organizations about creating an offshore aquaculture industry in the United States.

SATS has been having ongoing conversations over the years, specifically with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as well as the Nature Conservancy and Monterey Bay Aquarium, she said.

"Where do we all agree on aquaculture? What science do we have? It's been those types of conversations we want to continue into 2022," she said.

Brenholt for several years has been in the background working on campaigns for SATS, serving as its policy consultant since 2017. Last year she took over the campaign from longtime seafood lobbyist Margaret Henderson.