by Marion Nestle
Mar 3 2011

NOAA’s new aquaculture policy

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed the nation’s first aquaculture policy, which it says it did in response to consumer demand for local, safe, sustainably produced seafood (FoodNavigator.com has a good summary).

Ah yes.  Seafood.  The wild west of the food industry.  Safe and sustainable sounds good, but the statistics are not reassuring.

As NOAA explains, U.S. aquaculture – meaning farmed – currently only accounts for about 5% of our seafood.  Get this: an astonishing 84% of U.S. seafood is imported. Of this, half is farmed.

Worldwide, farmed seafood exceeded catches of wild seafood for the first time in 2009.

NOAA guesses that with wild fish stocks depleting rapidly, we will see plenty more fish and shellfish farming.

NOAA quotes the depressing Food and Agriculture Organization report on world fisheries and aquaculture.  This says that worldwide per capita fish availability is about 17 kg per year, and supplies more than 3 billion people with at least 15% of their average animal protein intake.  No wild fish stock can keep up with that kind of demand.

NOAA’s yawn-inducing recommendations (edited):

  • Enable sustainable aquaculture…in harmony with healthy, productive, and resilient marine ecosystems
  • Ensure agency decisions to protect wild species and coastal and ocean ecosystems
  • Advance scientific knowledge concerning sustainable aquaculture
  • Make timely and unbiased aquaculture management decisions
  • Support aquaculture innovation and investments that benefit the nation’s coastal
  • ecosystems, communities, seafood consumers, industry, and economy.
  • Advance public understanding of sustainable aquaculture practices
  • Work with our federal partners to provide resources and expertise needed to address aquaculture challenges
  • Work internationally to learn from aquaculture practices around the world

It’s going to take a lot more than that to fix the fish situation.