The American Fisheries Society (AFS) supports sustainable growth of aquaculture. The demand for fish is expected to grow significantly in the next decade, but it is unlikely that capture fisheries can sustainably accommodate increased harvest pressure to meet this demand. Domestic freshwater and marine aquaculture present existing and emerging opportunities to sustainably address America’s ongoing dependence on imported seafood, while relieving local pressures on wild stocks and impacts on aquatic ecosystems and waterfront communities. AFS calls for a clear, predictable, regulatory framework that will enable industry growth in a conscientious, environmentally sustainable manner. Further, we call for continued, consistent investments in research to understand effects of aquaculture development on fisheries and aquatic resources, and innovation to minimize negative environmental and social impacts of fish cultivation.
U.S. policymakers must address the future of our seafood supply and food insecurity. Seafood demand in the U.S. has grown steadily, driven by increases in both population and per capita seafood consumption. Yet, capture fisheries landings have not increased appreciably for 30 years. The anticipated impacts on wild fish populations from climate change make it less likely that wild stocks will be able to withstand additional harvest pressure.
Worldwide, fish farming has overtaken wild harvest of fish as the leading source of seafood, producing nearly 80 million metric tons in 2016. Today, the majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported and more than half is farm-raised. Enabling expansion of the marine aquaculture industry in the USA would increase domestic seafood supplies in accordance with strong environmental, food safety, and labor standards and protections.
While finfish and shellfish culture has supported traditional communities and working waterfronts in state waters for more than a century in the U.S., offshore finfish aquaculture has not kept pace. By establishing a clear and predictable legal and regulatory structure for marine aquaculture in the U.S., we can reduce the overreliance on seafood imports and improve seafood security with wholesome, domestically farmed seafood that minimizes the environmental and social footprint of the industry on our marine habitat and resources. Implementation of best practices and improvements has already reduced environmental impacts substantially (e.g., reduced use of fish meal and oil in feeds, siting tools to minimize user conflicts and effects of discharge, improved biosecurity practices and strict veterinary oversight of therapeutant use), and ongoing innovation will continue to reduce the environmental footprint of fish farming. Furthermore, existing law and regulatory frameworks in the U.S. ensure aquaculture operations are held to high standards with respect to environmental impacts. Healthy wild fisheries and responsible marine aquaculture can and must coexist if we are to feed ourselves and still fulfill our commitment to wild fish and wild places.
 FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). 2018. State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Available: http://www.fao.org/state-of-fisheries-aquaculture (4 May 2020).