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NOAA Releases Draft National Aquaculture Policies For Public Comment
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 (PST)

The Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week released complementary draft national aquaculture policies that “support sustainable marine aquaculture to increase the U.S. supply of healthy seafood, create jobs in coastal and other communities, spur innovation in technology, and help restore depleted species and marine habitats.”


Marine aquaculture is the farming of marine organisms such as shellfish, finfish, and algae for food, habitat restoration, and rebuilding of wild fish stocks. The public is invited to comment on both draft policies for the next 60 days. 


“Americans love seafood, and we consume approximately 5 billion pounds of it each year -- a significant portion of which are imports. In fact, our current trade deficit is approximately $9 billion,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “Supporting the U.S. aquaculture industry will encourage economic growth and employment opportunities at home, support exports to global markets, and spur new innovations in technology to support the industry.”


Aquaculture is playing a significant and growing role in global food production. Already, nearly half the fish consumed by people is produced by aquaculture, and a significant portion of future increases in the global seafood supply will come from aquaculture.


In the United States, some 84 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported, and about half of those imports are aquaculture products. The domestic aquaculture industry supplies only about 5 percent of the seafood Americans consume.


Once in place, the aquaculture policies will benefit the industry by outlining how NOAA plans to fund research into innovative aquaculture technologies, work with partners to create job initiatives that encourage the growth of the industry, and grant access to favorable sites for aquaculture facilities.


“If done wisely, aquaculture can complement wild fisheries while contributing to healthy oceans and coastal economies,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “As we rebuild wild fish populations, we recognize the world’s demand for safe, healthy seafood will continue to grow. Sustainable aquaculture increases our country’s food security.”


The draft NOAA policy provides guidance for NOAA’s actions regarding the development of all forms of marine aquaculture, from shellfish farming and habitat restoration to the culture of marine fish and algae on land and offshore. The policy provides a national approach for supporting sustainable commercial production, expanding restoration aquaculture, and researching and developing new technologies, and is part of NOAA’s national approach to sustainable seafood, which encompasses both aquaculture and capture fisheries.


The Commerce and NOAA draft policies echo several priorities of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy, including the emphasis on protecting, maintaining and restoring healthy and diverse ecosystems; supporting sustainable uses of the ocean; and increasing scientific understanding and applying that knowledge to make better decisions.


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