MS - Aquaculture Advancement Would Benefit Mississippi’s Economy
During the past several months, Mississippians have faced many challenging situations. One way that we can embark on a path to recovery to grow our economy, create jobs and support our industries is by increasing the production of sustainable seafood through aquaculture.
Offshore aquaculture, the process of cultivating farm-raised fish in an ocean environment, is a safe and resource-efficient way to produce protein. In fact, it has a much lower environmental impact than other forms of food manufacturing.
Domestic aquaculture will complement wild fishing to increase American seafood production, provide jobs in communities along the Gulf Coast, and help revitalize our local seafood industry, which has faced devastating economic impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
Global demand for seafood is anticipated to rise 70% by 2050, and aquaculture has emerged as the fastest-growing food sector in the world to meet that requirement. Sadly, those are not U.S. statistics; American aquaculture meets just 5% to 7% of the current demand for seafood. The industry has tremendous growth potential in the United States. The doubling of American aquaculture production is anticipated to create an additional 50,000 direct and indirect jobs. These jobs could provide year-round employment opportunities in coastal and fishing communities where opportunities are often limited and seasonally dependent.
Aquaculture already provides some states vast economic opportunities. For example, New England fishermen have faced challenges from declining stocks and increasing government restrictions on cod and lobster. The region has looked to aquaculture to raise oysters, mussels, seaweed, and fish. Aquaculture in New England now annually generates nearly $150 million worth of seafood.
Rural America also stands to benefit from the growth of aquaculture. The expansion of aquaculture will lead to increased demand for American-grown crops, which can be used in plant-based fish feed. According to studies published by Food and Water Watch, the soybean industry could generate an additional $200 million annually by supplying the ingredients for fish feed. Increased demand for these crops would create a new, predictable, domestic market for farmers, including new jobs.