USA - Ocean Stewards Release Policy Statement on Offshore Aquaculture Legislation Response to Proposed Section 704 in House CLEAR Legislation

Legislation seeks to stifle growth in open ocean aquaculture, group says
July 13, 2010

USA - Ocean Stewards Release Policy Statement on Offshore Aquaculture Legislation Response to Proposed Section 704 in House CLEAR Legislation

The Ocean Stewards Institute today released the following policy statement on Offshore Aquaculture Legislation, and the proposed Section 704 in the current draft of CLEAR legislation in the House of Representatives:

The Ocean Stewards Institute views with great concern the language in the draft Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Legislation in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources that would prevent the Secretary of Commerce, NOAA, or the Regional Fishery Management Councils from permitting any aquaculture activities in Federal waters. The proposed Section 704 needs to be removed from this legislation.

America needs to develop a responsible, sustainable open ocean aquaculture industry. Growth in aquaculture offshore is an ecological imperative, it is an economic opportunity, and it should be a national health priority. Offshore aquaculture can reduce pressure on wild fish stocks, it can maintain working waterfronts and seafood jobs, and it can provide more healthful, locally-grown seafood for American consumers.
Seafood represents an $8 billion trade deficit, second only to imported oil. The technology for safe and profitable open-ocean fish farming has been developed here in America. US investors stand ready to commit capital, within a clear regulatory framework, to companies with secure tenure and sound plans for seafood growth. America’s fishing waterfront is hungry for work. There is an opportunity here that can mesh perfectly with President Obama’s exhortation for us to create clean, green industries, here at home.

But if America does not act, or if Congress does not encourage action, then we risk losing the technological edge to other countries. Our reliance on imported seafood would grow, representing further export of our ecological footprint overseas. This aversion to opportunity and abrogation of responsibility is clearly not in the national interest.
Yet this proposed legislation would take away any authority from the one agency that has the capacity to provide leadership, oversight and a meaningful regulatory framework for growth in aquaculture in U.S. Federal waters.

This legislation seeks to stifle growth in open ocean aquaculture at a time when the threat to our ocean ecosystems has never been more vividly demonstrated, and when there is broad consensus that the regulatory responsibilities need to be better clarified.

We Stewards believe that the Department of Commerce and NOAA already have sufficient authority to create an adequate regulatory framework for open ocean aquaculture. However, if additional legislation is needed to better define the process for permitting and NOAA’s role in establishing regulations and monitoring industry impacts, then Congress should expeditiously pass such a bill. It should not back away from the existing legal framework that is already in place.

America needs this vision. Our coastal communities need these jobs. And our consumers need the healthful, wholesome seafood that we can and should grow here in American waters.
To accomplish this, Congress needs to remove Section 704 from the CLEAR Legislation.