This week, the Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture (CSA), which has endorsed the SEAfood Act, is headed to Washington DC to advocate for a science-based, stakeholder-led legislative approach to develop a thriving, well-regulated US open ocean aquaculture industry.

Up to 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, and half of that is farmed. The development of open ocean aquaculture can help meet the growing demand for homegrown seafood and add stability to the domestic seafood supply chain, but the US currently lacks a comprehensive federal regulatory framework with the requisite strong standards needed for sustainable, equitable, and profitable open ocean aquaculture.

“We are working to ensure safe and environmentally responsible access to valuable nutritious (and delicious) resources, and we hope to talk to many offices about how the SEAfood Act can play an important role in the US’s safe, sustainable seafood industry,” said CSA member Dr Chris Vogliano, co-founder and director of Global Research at Food and Planet.

The CSA is committed to ensuring Americans have access to sustainable, locally sourced seafood, and making sure we grow it here and do it right. The coalition’s diverse membership consists of chefs, fishers, seafood farmers, industry, and environmental advocates, including new members: the Charter Fisherman’s Association, sustainable seafood advocate Emily De Sousa, and future leader Paul Grech.

There are real concerns about open ocean aquaculture, which is why the CSA is committed to working with lawmakers and other partners to chart a science-based and stakeholder-led approach.

The CSA is advocating for the SEAfood Act because they believe it will:

  • Charge the Government Accountability Office with producing a report that details permitting, monitoring, and regulatory options for governing open ocean aquaculture in the US.
  • Direct the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to complete a study on the scientific basis for efficient and effective regulation of open ocean aquaculture.
  • Authorise the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create an open ocean aquaculture assessment programme that prioritises research and transparency using on-the-water projects and are operated in partnership with land and sea grant institutions.
  • Create a grant programme, under NOAA, for minority-serving educational institutions to establish aquaculture centers of excellence that meet the needs of a growing domestic and sustainable aquaculture industry including developing or enhancing undergraduate and graduate aquaculture curriculum, career development, and extension programmes.

Although some parts of the fishing sector have historically been opposed to aquaculture development, CSA members say that they want members of Congress and their staff to know that US aquaculture can and should develop as a complement to wild fisheries so that more domestic seafood can be made available for more Americans.

“As fishermen, we value the ability to provide and access delicious seafood. Developing US aquaculture is an opportunity to offer Americans more protein-rich seafood, but it needs to be done through a transparent process with stringent regulations that allow consumers to feel confident in what they buy and feed their families,” said Captain Jim Green, president of the Charter Fisherman’s Association.

Coalition members will have the opportunity to share their unique experiences and relevant concerns with decision-makers. CSA chefs and seafood industry members want to ensure that they, their customers, and their communities have access to nutritious and sustainably sourced seafood for generations.

“Our company is investing in wild, local West Coast seafood, but a key factor we can do so is because the US has such strong federal fisheries management,” said Peter Adame, communications and sustainability director for Lusamerica, a seafood wholesaler based in California and Washington. “We’re excited to be in DC because we want to see the same strong management reflected with aquaculture.”