America’s coastal communities are increasingly faced with climate-related threats, including rising sea levels, erosion, and severe weather storms. As the White House and Congress consider legislation on infrastructure, creating opportunities for investment in coastal infrastructure to protect our shorelines and coastal communities should be a priority. Offshore aquaculture, or fish farming off our shores, is one opportunity to help revitalize infrastructure along our coasts, ensure coastal resilience, and build a climate-resilient economy, but we need the support of Congress to make it happen.
Growth of an American aquaculture industry and the development of offshore fish farms would infuse a much-needed investment into our shoreline, creating new job opportunities and generating economic stimulus in those areas. A strong coastal infrastructure system also serves as a buffer to protect homes and businesses along the shores from property damage. Investment in our waterfront communities would enhance coastal resilience to protect these vulnerable areas.
The farming of seafood through offshore aquaculture, one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein sustainably, also has a unique role to play in coastal resiliency. Certain types of aquaculture, such as shellfish and seaweed farming, can help clean the ocean and support a healthy ocean ecosystem. The production of these species can provide a nature-based solution to help counter the effects of climate change on our ocean and strengthen the natural resiliency of our shorelines.
As our nation seeks solutions to help address the effects of climate change in our coastal communities and nationwide, investing in alternative food production methods, such as aquaculture, will be a necessity. The U.S. has the resources to be a world leader in sustainable aquaculture development, but the lack of a clear, predictable federal permitting process makes offshore farming in U.S. federal waters nearly impossible.
The solution is simple: federal lawmakers should establish a clear regulatory pathway for permitting offshore farms. Lawmakers must prepare the U.S. for leadership in global seafood production by establishing National Standards for Aquaculture, outlining a clear, science-based process to determine suitable locations for ocean farming that mitigate any impacts on the public and on the environment. Additional federal resources should also be dedicated to research and development in offshore aquaculture to ensure we’re equipped to manage growth in the most sustainable manner possible.
Members of Congress have an opportunity to support growth of the American aquaculture industry and our economy by building a sustainable seafood future and enhancing the resiliency of our shorelines. Now is the time for federal action on aquaculture and coastal infrastructure.
–Margaret Henderson, Campaign Manager, Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS)