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Offshore aquaculture bipartisan bill reintroduced in U.S. congress

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Three U.S. senators, Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), reintroduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to support the development of offshore aquaculture industry in the U.S. The bipartisan bill, the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, would increase production of sustainable seafood through the raising of fish in federal waters and it would create opportunities for new American jobs.

“The expansion of American aquaculture is an opportunity for federal lawmakers to address some of the most critical challenges we face, including climate, economic, and food security,” said Sarah Brenholt, campaign manager of Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS). “Establishing an offshore aquaculture industry would spur economic growth and create new jobs at a time when we need it most.” 

The bipartisan AQUAA Act would establish National Standards for offshore aquaculture and clarify a regulatory system for the farming of fish in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The bill would also establish a research and technology grant program to fund innovative research and extension services focused on improving and advancing sustainable domestic aquaculture. 

Expanding America’s aquaculture production into federal waters would help revitalize the seafood industry, which has been gravely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also create new job opportunities in coastal communities, where fishing jobs are often limited and seasonally dependent, by providing year-round employment opportunities that would supplement wild-capture jobs. 

Aquaculture would also create opportunities in other industries, such as agriculture, by providing a new market for U.S. farmers of crops such as soybeans, corn and peas, which can be used to create fish feed and ease pressure on ocean resources while lessening dependence on uncertain foreign trade relationships. Additionally, growth of farmed fish would support other related industries, including manufacturing, feed production, food processing and food service. 

“Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production sector, but the U.S. lacks a comprehensive, nationwide system for permitting in federal waters,” said Wicker. “This deficiency prevents the development of aquaculture farms, leading to more seafood imports. Our legislation would establish national standards for offshore aquaculture, enabling U.S. producers to create jobs and meet the growing demand for fresh, local seafood.” 

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