Friday, March 15, 2013

U.S. Aquaculture Advocacy

"Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods. The stay in bed all day and night. They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers, and wait for their meals to come to them."
--Hector Bolitho

As I have mentioned before, about 50% of the world's seafood production is through aquaculture and it is necessary if we intend to expand our seafood consumption. There is an insufficient supply of wild stocks to fulfill all our needs, especially if we can get everyone to eat seafood at least twice a week. The U.S. imports an unbelievable 91% of our seafood, and much of that comes from foreign aquaculture. Such aquaculture may not be sustainable and the media has indicated all of the problems, actual and potential, from those operations. The U.S. has little control over this overseas aquaculture, so what can we do?

What about U.S. aquaculture?

The U.S. currently engages in only a small amount of aquaculture and we rank 13th in total worldwide aquaculture production. Most of U.S. aquaculture is made up of freshwater farms, the majority which raise catfish. About 20% of U.S. aquaculture is for marine species, and 80% of that is for shellfish, such as oysters, clams and mussels. This marine aquaculture provides only 1.5% of U.S. seafood consumption. There have been a number of calls for increased aquaculture in the U.S. and that might be exactly what we need to increase U.S. purchases of domestic seafood.

At the International Boston Seafood Show, I stopped by the booth of the National Aquaculture Association (NAA), an advocacy group for U.S. aquaculture. Their mission is "To provide a unified national voice for aquaculture that ensures its sustainability, protects its profitability, and encourages its development in an environmentally responsible manner." The two main issues that get raised about all aquaculture are whether it is sustainable or not, and whether it is safe or not. The media often likes to talk up the risks and dangers of aquaculture, exaggerating the perils. That can create in the mind of the general public an undue paranoia against aquaculture.

In the defense of U.S. aquaculture, the NAA cites the alphabet soup of federal agencies that govern the various aspects of aquaculture, such as the USDA, EPA, NOAA, FDA and USFWS. In addition, there is a long list of stringent state and local regulations which are applicable to aquaculture operations. All of this oversight and regulations should make Americans feel more secure with domestic aquaculture, more confident that it is safe and sustainable, despite fear mongering by some of the media.

All of these legal restrictions, regulations and agencies apparently have succeeded to a large extent. According to the Seafood Watch, much of the U.S. farmed seafood is considered sustainable. For example, U.S farmed channel catfish, oysters, mussels, shrimp, Coho salmon (farmed in tank systems) and others are listed as Best Choices. The same cannot be said for many instances of foreign aquaculture. It seems that U.S. aquaculture is largely sustainable so consumers have more reasons to be confident and secure about domestic seafood.

As for the potential risks from mercury/PCBs in seafood, I have already written about that issue, that the health benefits from seafood consumption far outweigh any minimal risks. It is essentially a non-issue. Again, consumers have little reason to worry.

As I said before, you should give your support to domestic seafood, and that includes both wild and farmed seafood. It will be good for you, good for your community and good for our country.

1 comment:

Rubys Inn Bryce can said...

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