The following letter was sent to IntraFish by Paul Zajicek, executive director of the National Aquaculture Association in response to a column by Editor John Fiorillo entitled, The US aquaculture industry is on life support.

We appreciate your hard look at the US aquaculture production statistics and agree the trend is not positive, which can lead to an analysis that is anything but complimentary. However, the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) is far more interested in creative solutions to the problems our farmers face. Spoiler alert: There is more than light at the end of this tunnel.

National Seafood Economic Development Summit

The NAA has been advocating for a national economic development program focusing on key economic and infrastructure bottlenecks. The United States has coalesced its national interests to address an imperative for agriculture in the 1860s and commercial fishing after the 200-mile limit was enacted. We fully appreciate the need to do something of the same scale, a "blue space program," in order to reinvigorate US aquaculture. We have met with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration staff. Summit planning is to start in early 2020 for the purposes of:

  • Encouraging infrastructure development such as working waterfront, transportation, feed production, cold storage and processing.
  • Expediting technology transfer and adoption to reduce costs, increase production, and reduce environmental effects.
  • Training an aquaculture and commercial fishing savvy workforce.
  • Encouraging entrepreneurial development by:
  1. educating bankers and investors as to the opportunities for aquaculture and commercial fishing to create, sustain and strengthen rural economies, jobs and income,\
  2. improving and expanding existing financing programs,
  3. creating investment incentives including tax credits,
  4. developing risk management tools; and,
  5. creating incentives for states, provinces or regions that wish to step up and support commercial fishing and aquaculture.

Aquaculture Organic Label

The NAA has met with US Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach and staff of the Agricultural Marketing Service. The agency is interested in releasing for public comment a proposed aquaculture organic rule when the rule calendar allows; however, this will not happen overnight.

Regulatory Cost Analysis

The NAA has strongly supported and is a partner to an effort by a research team from the Virginia Polytechnic University, University of Florida, and Mississippi State University that is building upon prior cost analysis for U.S. baitfish, gamefish and West Coast shellfish production.

This work, that has already started, will analyze the economic effects of regulatory compliance costs for farm-raised catfish, Atlantic Coast shellfish, tropical/ornamental fish, hybrid striped bass, and tilapia farms. And identify strategies and pathways likely to reduce redundancy and inefficiency in regulatory compliance without compromising oversight to ensure sustainability and social responsibility. When combined with that of the previous and on-going studies, this in-depth analysis will provide critical coverage of 73 percent of the total value of US aquaculture.

What have been the outcomes so far? Regulatory cost analytics were introduced during a Wisconsin Senate Committee debate to streamline state regulations and was a deciding factor in successful legislation to achieve those goals. The NAA utilized this data in a meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency to trigger a regulator and farmer education effort to rationalize federal and state permitting.

Subcommittee on Aquaculture

The federal inter-agency committee created by the National Aquaculture Act of 1980 has been elevated in their stature and reach. While this may not light most people’s fires, it reflects a reawakening within the federal bureaucracy of the importance and need for regulatory reform and an improved and expanded research effort.

A Washington DC Presence

The first of what we hope will be an annual weeklong aquaculture-centric effort is planned for early October. The NAA Board of Directors and member associations have “walked the hill” twice (2107 and 2018) and are planning their third round of visits with the House and Senate. In partnership with the US Aquaculture Society and Catfish Farmers of America, an invitation only forum for Congress and federal agencies entitled, U.S. Aquaculture: Our Sustainable Food Solution, will occur. Catfish Farmers of America is also walking the hill and will hold their annual farm-raised catfish fry.