NOAA Releases First National Aquaculture Policy Draft

Photo by Loozrboy. Some rights reserved.

Though it originally slipped past me, I was recently made aware (by way of a blog post on the Atlantic) of the release of NOAA’s Draft National Aquaculture Policy, which is intended to guide NOAA’s “actions and decisions on aquaculture and to provide a national approach for supporting sustainable commercial production, expanding restoration aquaculture, and researching and developing new technologies.”

More than half of the fish consumed globally is “produced by aquaculture,” yet domestic aquaculture supplies only 5 percent of the seafood Americans eat (and we do love our seafood, stresses Commerce Secretary Locke: we consume 5 billion pounds of it each year!). The NOAA policy – which was released jointly with a complementary draft policy from the Department of Commerce – aims to fix this imbalance by funding innovative in-house aquaculture technologies and creating job initiatives that encourage industry growth in the U.S.

The policy stresses a sustainable approach to aquaculture that includes a tip of the hat to habitat restoration and the rebuilding of wild fish stocks, but it’s the impact from fish farming on these same wild stocks that is often the concern of aquaculture opponents. Indeed, many of the comments already submitted on the policy voice this concern:

“THIS IS NOT “SUSTAINABLE”. AQUACULTURE POLLUTES VAST AMOUNTS OF WATER. WE NEED TO DRINK THAT WATER AND WE NEED CLEAN WATER, NOT DIRTY WATER FRO MFISH GROWING. AQUACULTURE PRODUCES INFERIOR FISH DISEASE RIDDEN. LICE, ETC. WILD FISH STOCKS ARE DECIMATED TO FEED TO THE AQUAFISH.”

“I am one of the millions of citizens who do not approve of developing and selling genetically engineered salmon. You must be aware of the environmental harm that was done when 600,000 nonnative fish escaped in 4 years in the Northwest so the claim to sustainability cannot be true.”

“But wait you say…everyone knows that farmed fish are bad.., bad for the ecology, bad for the wild species in the area, bad for the farmed fish themselves and bad for the consumer. Ah-ha, never fear, NOAA is here. NOAA will make sure that everything is done sustainably. Not only that but (and this is the best part of all), NOAA and the United States Department of Commerce will make sure to tell everyone how safe and environmentally sound our new grand Aquaculture Industry really is. They’ll probably have posters with rainbows and kittens and happy cartoon salmon.”

Agree? Disagree? Click here to submit a comment on the draft policy before April 11, 2011.

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