Offshore aquaculture bill draws opposition
January 2, 2024
By Matt Jones
The SEAfood Act was reintroduced to U.S. Congress this year by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina). The bill would authorize NOAA to create an offshore aquaculture assessment program to establish a grant program for aquaculture centers of excellence and order reports on aquaculture regulations. According to critics, however, the bill allows NOAA to circumvent environmental assessments.
James Mitchell, legislative director of Don’t Cage Our Oceans, says that the provisions of the act would put local businesses at a disadvantage and would encourage larger corporate interests to establish trial facilities without oversight.
“We can’t afford to hand over our public spaces to big businesses that will extract profit at the expense of the environment, small business owners, and coastal residents,” said Mitchell. “We need the House and other federal leaders to focus on supporting the fishing businesses and methods that we know are safe, sustainable, and able to feed the American people.”
On the other hand, the bill is supported by the Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture (CSA), who call it “the only measure in Congress that lays the groundwork for an equitable and inclusive seafood economy of both farmed and wild-caught fish while prioritizing data and science in the development of offshore aquaculture in the U.S.”
CSA chief Andrew Zimmern further described the act as “a science-based approach that’s good for the economy, for our domestic seafood industry, for our ocean, and for American consumers.”
The bill was initially introduced in the 2022 legislative session, but it failed to receive sufficient support to make it out of committee before that session ended.
Representatives for NOAA declined to comment on the legislation.
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