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Bill pushing for US offshore aquaculture development reintroduced in House

A bill designed to develop and support offshore aquaculture in the United States is getting a second chance at passing in the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

U.S. Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-Mississippi) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), House Agriculture Committee Chairman, reintroduced the bipartisan Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act on Wednesday, 11 March.

A previous version of the bill was introduced in 2018, but died when Congress’ term ended at the beginning of January 2019.

The AQUAA Act would establish national standards for sustainable offshore aquaculture and clarify a regulatory pathway for offshore aquaculture in the U.S. exclusive economic zone, from 12 miles offshore out to 200 miles offshore. Supporters of the bill say the economic benefits of offshore aquaculture include job creation, investment in coastal communities, and expanded markets for wild-caught seafood. The expansion of aquaculture would also be a boon for U.S. soybean, corn, and pea farmers, as those products can be used to create fish feed, easing pressure on ocean resource, according to Peterson.

“Aquaculture is a fast-growing agriculture industry that is creating jobs and improving our country’s food security,” Peterson said. “It also creates a market for soybeans as they provide nutritious aquafeed. Our bill will streamline the permitting process and build upon research and development efforts that are underway.”

Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS), an advocacy group for U.S. seafood producers, applauded the reintroduction of the bill in a statement.

“A predictable regulatory framework and National Standards for aquaculture production are critical to the competitiveness of the American seafood industry, which currently faces a seafood trade deficit of USD 14 billion [EUR 12.5 billion],” SATS President and High Liner Foods Vice President of Corporate Sustainability and Government Affairs Bill DiMento said. “Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food sector in the world, but the U.S. ranks only 16th in the production of farm-raised seafood. Half of the fish eaten in the United States comes from farms – but not from American farms. We can do better. With global demand for seafood projected to increase by 70 percent in the next 30 years – domestic aquaculture, combined with our wild fish harvesting – could one day meet the entire U.S. demand for seafood. Federal legislation is an important first step.”

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