Offshore aquaculture: The future of seafood?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US has implemented a program that will allow for the production of sustainable seafood in federal waters.

The goal of the program is to advance and expand US aquaculture, as a complement to wild harvests, to keep the countries fisheries sustainable and resilient to growing demand.
The new rule authorises NOAA Fisheries to issue permits for an initial period of 10 years for growing species such as red drum, cobia, and almaco jack in federal waters in the Gulf.
“Today we grow most of our food on land, but we’re running out of water and arable land, so the question becomes, how are we going to produce the food that the world will need in the future?” Michael Rubino,director of NOAA fisheries asserted.

“Aquaculture is sure to be part of the solution, and the United States is in a unique position. Every coastal nation controls economic activities in a zone reaching 200 miles (321 kilometres) from shore, and the US EEZ is the largest in the world at 4.4 million square miles (11.4 million square kilometres),” Rubino stated.
Marine aquaculture specifically refers to the culturing of species that live in the ocean and US marine aquaculture industry primarily produces oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and salmon.
After 30 years of innovation and learning, the practices and technologies available today are significantly improved over those available during the industry’s early years.
While US aquaculture currently accounts for 20 per cent of the value of domestic fishery landings, US production still lags behind much of the world despite representing a significant opportunity for coastal communities and domestic seafood production capacity.
Concerns about the potential pollution of ocean habitats and the effects on wild fish population have been thoroughly considered by the administration.
“Salmon farming is going through a revival in part because of responsible practices they’ve developed. Their locations are properly sited in terms of water quality, their feeds are efficient in that they don’t sink to the bottom, they vaccinate the fish instead of using antibiotics.
“ They’ve had few if any escapes in recent years, and they even fallow between crops like land-based farmers to allow the bottom to recuperate. So we’ve made a lot of progress in terms of environmentally friendly seafood farming,” Rubino stated.
“The Gulf of Mexico rule builds on what we’ve learned over the decades about producing seafood in a responsible and sustainable way. It includes a comprehensive suite of environmental regulations that will be enforced by NOAA Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others.
“Those regulations require that water quality be maintained, that endangered species are protected, and that only species native to the area are farmed,” Rubino added.
Credit: Baird Maritime