WASHINGTON, DC US — US senators are working to establish national standards for offshore aquaculture with the introduction of new legislation, the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act (S. 4723).

“The expansion of domestic offshore aquaculture is a win-win for American communities nationwide,” said Bill DiMento, president of Stronger America Through Seafood and vice president of corporate sustainability and government affairs at High Liner Foods. “Growth of the American aquaculture industry would create new jobs, provide new business opportunities and grow our economy as our country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the opportunities that aquaculture can provide American communities, there is growing bipartisan support and momentum for federal action on aquaculture.”

Along with setting national standards, the AQUAA Act would clarify a regulatory system or the development of aquaculture in the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The legislation would also establish a research and technology grant program to fund innovative research and extension services focused on improving and advancing sustainable domestic aquaculture.

The expansion of aquaculture is expected to benefit US farmers for a new market for soybeans, corn and peas which can be used to make fish feed.

“With our extended coastline, expansive ocean resources, skilled labor force, superior technology, and ample feed sources, the US has the potential to be a global leader for aquaculture production,” DiMento said. “However, our potential will remain untapped unless and until federal action is taken to clarify the permitting process. SATS applauds Senators Wicker, Schatz and Rubio for working across party lines to bring awareness and encourage debate in Congress on the topic of expanding domestic aquaculture.”

The bipartisan legislation was introduced to the US Senate on Sept. 24 by US senators Roger Wicker, Brian Schatz and Marco Rubio.

“Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector, but the US lacks a comprehensive, nationwide system for permitting in federal waters,” said Wicker. “This deficiency prevents the development of aquaculture farms, leading to more seafood imports. Our legislation would establish national standards for offshore aquaculture, enabling US producers to create jobs and meet the growing demand for fresh, local seafood.”

The companion bill for The AQUAA Act in the US House, H.R. 6191, was introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Congressman Steven Palazzo in March 2020. The AQUAA Act complements the May 2020 presidential executive order on American Seafood Competitiveness, which outlines a process for developing aquaculture opportunity areas in federal waters.