New Trade Group Goes Fishing for Aquaculture

The industry collective Stronger America Through Seafood will press for policies that support aquaculture, or the farming of fish and other sea creatures. The goal? To increase seafood production in the U.S., which is lagging behind other countries.

You may never have heard of aquaculture, but a new coalition of major players in the seafood industry want to boost its profile, especially among policymakers.

Aquaculture is the farming of fish or other sea creatures for food. With growing evidence that domestic seafood production isn’t meeting consumer demand, a new advocacy group called Stronger America Through Seafood is aiming to increase the industry’s production capacity through the use of aquaculture techniques. The group—which includes Cargill, Red Lobster, Sysco, and Pacific Seafood, among others—says those techniques  been around for decades but aren’t being used to their full advantage in the U.S.

The vast majority of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported. While the U.S. is the top producer of beef and poultry, other countries far outpace the U.S. in terms of both aquaculture and seafood production in general.

“Increasing Americans’ access to healthful, sustainable, and affordable seafood is simple: The U.S. must produce more of its own,” the organization states on its mission page.

In comments to Undercurrent News, Kathryn Unger, managing director of Cargill’s North American aquaculture operations, noted that the U.S. had once led the world on aquaculture issues. “Norway has taken off. Latin America has taken off. Look at what’s happening in Asia. But the U.S. has been on the cusp for all of these years and we’ve only gotten this far,” she said.

The group’s “immediate objective,” according to its website, is to “create a more positive federal regulatory environment for seafood production,” including through passage of new legislation.  It cites the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, which  was introduced in the Senate in June and would create a new office under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that broadly supports aquaculture.

Other more traditional fishing interests have expressed concerns about expanding aquaculture’s footprint in the U.S. In comments to Alaska Public Media, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation Executive Director Julie Decker noted that the increased production that aquaculture encourages would, at least in the short term, hurt the economy around fish.

“If you increase supply, prior to increasing demand or without the effort to increase demand, your prices drop,” Decker said, noting that farmed salmon caused a sharp decrease in prices in the 1980s. “The end of the salmon story at this stage is there’s millions more people eating salmon than they were back in 1980. But it was a very painful adjustment period.”

Residents of Alaska, with one of the most robust fishing economies in the country, expressed skepticism about the proposed law, and some of the state’s legislators suggested Alaska wouldn’t take part in any new aquaculture efforts.

(Görkem/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!