USA - ‘COASTAL SEAWEED FARM ACT OF 2023’ TO SUPPORT ALTERNATIVE, SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Mary Peltola (AK-at Large) introduced the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act of 2023.
This bill directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to produce a joint study evaluating the benefits and impacts of coastal seaweed farming and devise necessary metrics and regulations. The bill also creates the Indigenous Seaweed Farming Fund, a grant program that would reduce cost barriers for indigenous communities, emboldening them to participate in coastal seaweed farming.
“The climate is changing, and as we work to mitigate its impacts and reduce damage, we also have a responsibility to find smart, sustainable alternatives to how we do things. Coastal seaweed farming has tremendous potential to serve as a sustainable replacement in food products, fertilizer, and animal feed; and it comes with a myriad of benefits for coastal communities – supporting local economies, providing food security, and regenerating marine ecosystems,” said Rep. Huffman. “We also want to ensure equity in this field so that indigenous people can continue benefiting from the industry – so our bill creates a grant program to reduce cost barriers for native communities, many of whom have farmed seaweed for thousands of years.”
“Alaska and our Indigenous cultures have been leading the way in mariculture and responsible ocean harvesting for thousands of years,” said Rep. Peltola. “From seaweed to kelp to shellfish, Alaska has been at the forefront of what is now being called the blue economy. I’m proud to cosponsor this bill with my colleague, Representative Huffman, to establish a framework for applying Alaskans’ knowledge and experience to a burgeoning new industry. This act recognizes Alaska’s unique environment and the crucial relationships between our coastal and near-coastal communities, Tribal organizations, and Alaska Native Corporations, all of which are part of this sector. I believe that this bill can make a positive impact on issues of food security, sustainability, and ocean health, and I look forward to working on it together.”
Specifically, the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act directs NOAA and USDA to:
- Study and publish a report on the benefits and impacts of coastal seaweed farming on the marine ecosystem.
- Develop regulations and establish evaluation metrics based on the study to ensure coastal seaweed farming, siting, and operations maximize potential benefits and avoid adverse impacts on the ecosystem, wildlife, fisheries, and local communities.
- Collaborate with the Interagency Working Group on Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge, states, tribes, local governments and other federal agencies on best practices.
- Develop food safety regulations on farmed seaweed in coordination with the Food & Drug Administration.
- Provide educational materials for the training of incoming coastal seaweed farmers, prioritizing indigenous communities after the study is complete.
The Coastal Seaweed Farm Act’s Indigenous Seaweed Farming Fund would provide grants to Indigenous communities to:
- Support coastal seaweed farming, including for purchasing equipment, obtaining, planting, and operating a coastal seaweed farm as well as processing, transporting, and storing seaweed.
- Use coastal seaweed farming for restorative ecological functions.
- Require USDA and NOAA to provide outreach to eligible entities and solicit comments and recommendations on each stage of operation of the grant program.
Eligible entities include federally recognized Tribes, Native Villages, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Native people of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, state-recognized Tribes, and Alaska Native Corporations.
“Seaweed absorbs carbon pollution and acts as a nursery for the little fish that coastal birds rely on for food,” said Romaric Moncrieffe, marine conservation policy manager at National Audubon Society. “Seaweed farming is a new industry, and the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act will ensure that it starts off on the right foot, researching any potential impacts to birds, fisheries, and coastal habitats.”
“Various forms of seafood cultivation have taken place in North America for thousands of years. And yet as our climate and ocean conditions continue to change, new questions arise on how to support coastal cultures and economies into the future without compromising marine ecosystems. We applaud the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act for its science-based, responsible approach to studying the risks and opportunities from restorative seaweed farming and for its stakeholder-led approach that will reduce barriers for indigenous communities to participate in seaweed aquaculture,” said Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President, Political Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund.
“The New England Aquarium supports the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act of 2023 as an important step in the responsible development of the nation’s nearshore seaweed farming industry. The Act’s wide-ranging coverage provides for the consideration of impacts to wildlife associated with aquaculture gear and practices alongside consideration of inclusivity and workforce development. We commend Representative Huffman, Representative Peltola, and Senator Markey’s leadership as champions of a blue economy, a priority for the New England Aquarium as we ensure both the conservation of wildlife and the responsible development of the nation’s future in domestic aquaculture production,” said Dr. John Mandelman, Vice President and Chief Scientist of the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at New England Aquarium.
“If implemented with equity in mind, the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act can foster a new regenerative ocean farming economy, that is based on healing, restoration and mitigation, rather than just further extraction of our finite and precious natural resources. Ocean Farming can empower Indigenous communities to further local food security programs, be a part of a sustainable blue/green economy, while helping heal our ailing oceans,” said Dune Lankard, Native Conservancy Founder & President.
The bill is endorsed by the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, the New England Aquarium, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Don’t Cage Our Oceans, Native Conservancy, and the Urban Ocean Lab.
Text of the legislation can be found here.