A Message from Sam Rauch, Head of NOAA Fisheries
Aquaculture supplies seafood, supports fisheries, and creates habitat
NOAA Fisheries’ responsibility as steward of our nation’s living marine resources includes fostering the development of marine aquaculture for a variety of purposes – to supply safe seafood for people; to help support domestic wild fisheries such as salmon through hatcheries; to preserve and rebuild threatened and endangered species such as abalone; and to restore habitats such as oyster reefs.
In the United States, we consume a lot of seafood, but we produce very little as far as farmed products. Most of the marine species we produce for consumption are shellfish, such as oysters, clams, and mussels. There are also operations that grow a small amount of farmed salmon in Maine and Washington State. However, there is growing interest and support for the culture of a wider variety of shellfish, marine fish, and algae. To assist, there are systems being developed that will grow fish, shellfish, and algae together in one operation to replicate the symbiotic relationship among the three in nature.
On a global scale, we export technology, feed, and investment to the booming global aquaculture trade and then import seafood from countries like China, Thailand, and Canada. While we need those imports, what we are missing is the local production piece in the value chain and the opportunity to connect people with local sources of sustainable seafood and the chance to support businesses and create jobs in coastal communities.
Last year, the Department of Commerce and NOAA released national aquaculture policies to establish a framework to allow sustainable domestic aquaculture to contribute to the U.S. seafood supply, support coastal communities and important commercial and recreational fisheries, and help to restore species and habitat. So far, outcomes of that effort have led to
- A National Shellfish Initiative to expand shellfish farming and restoration;
- Working with federal and state partners to expedite shellfish permitting in Maryland, Washington, California and elsewhere while maintaining environmental stewardship;
- A specific Washington State Shellfish Initiative;
- A new abalone and native oyster restoration hatchery at Manchester Lab; and
- Progress on alternative feeds and the use of fish processing trimmings and plant-based feeds to accommodate growth in aquaculture without dependence on forage fish
We have a small, but vibrant marine aquaculture industry in the United States ready to work with regulators, seafood communities, and other partners to grow more seafood. Encouraging marine aquaculture within the context of NOAA’s stewardship mission continues to be in the public interest. To that end, NOAA will continue to work with its partners to implement the national aquaculture policies and enable robust marine aquaculture in the United States. To learn more, visit the Office of Aquaculture webpage.
Samuel D. Rauch III
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs,
performing the functions and duties of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries