Ocean Stewards Rally Behind Offshore Aquaculture Bill
A diverse group of Ocean Stewards Institute members, representing the full breadth and depth of the emerging open ocean aquaculture industry, convened at the National Marine Aquaculture Summit in Washington, D.C. on June 26-27, to show the broad constituency’s support for the NOAA Offshore Aquaculture bill currently before Congress. The group included representatives of grain growers, feed companies, investors, the insurance industry, innovative fish cage manufacturers, open ocean farmers, and alternate protein and oil researchers and suppliers, as well as sustainable seafood restaurateurs, retailers and consumers.
Both in sessions at the Summit and subsequent meetings with environmental groups and legislators on Capitol Hill, the newly organized Ocean Stewards trade association was able to emphasize the environmental and economic imperative for the development of U.S. aquaculture in the open ocean.
While supporting the NOAA initiative with the current Offshore Aquaculture Bill, the Ocean Stewards advocated for clearer definition in the legislation of higher environmental standards for open ocean aquaculture. They also pressed for more opportunity for public input in drafting regulations and the permitting process. An economic incentive package is also crucial for jump-starting the industry in the U.S. The Ocean Stewards advocated for such a package, as well as calling for increased funding for research and development to maintain U.S. leadership in the technology for these open ocean systems.
In response to concerns raised about the impact that the expansion of open ocean aquaculture would have on water quality, the seabed and wild fish, Neil Anthony Sims, Founding Board member of the Ocean Stewards Institute, presented a case study of Kona Blue Water Farms, the first integrated hatchery and open ocean fish farm in the U.S.
“We’ve been raising sashimi-grade Kona Kampachi in Hawaiian state waters for two years, and have gathered substantial data that show no significant environmental impact,” said Sims, who is President and co-founder of Kona Blue. “Hawaii state legislation provides a useful model for federal legislation, with ample opportunity for public input, and rigorous environmental monitoring requirements.”
Currently, several states have legislation allowing open ocean aquaculture in state waters, including Hawaii, Washington, California and Maine. The Ocean Stewards believe that moving fish farms to deeper water offshore, within federal jurisdiction, will further mitigate any potential environmental impact.
“The U.S. must lead in this emerging industry, or we will be forever reliant on seafood imported from overseas, where there may be looser environmental standards and less rigorous food safety standards. This is both an economic opportunity, and a moral obligation,” said Sims.