America needs another revolution. We need a Blue Revolution, to start to grow fish in the open ocean, where they belong. And we should lead the world in this initiative. This is an economic opportunity: we must reverse our $12.9 billion seafood trade deficit. We have the technologies, we have the investment capital, and we need the jobs and the working waterfronts. It is also a moral obligation: over 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. America controls the largest ocean expanse of any nation on earth, yet we import more seafood—by dollar value—than any other country. This means that if we quash the development of aquaculture in the U.S., then we are simply exporting the environmental footprint to other countries, where environmental standards may be more lax.
Leading conservation groups such as WWF, Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy now recognize the global imperative for expansion of aquaculture, and are actively working to encourage best practices. Yet Marianne Cufone, of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, (The Hill, October 17, 2016, 01:40 pm) asserts that the “Feds must end push for ocean aquaculture.”
Cufone and her fellow anti-aquaculture activists cling tenaciously to data that is two or three decades old, or cite no data at all, to support their position. This continues the pattern of deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of the impacts of ocean culture on the environment. Growing this industry is vitally important for the health of the planet, for the health of the oceans, and for the health of American consumers. Consider, please:
Planetary health: A 2012 study by Conservation International, titled ‘Blue Frontiers’, conducted a full Life-Cycle Analysis of all water, land and feed resource use, and impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, and concluded that aquaculture was, far and away, the least impactful of all animal protein production systems. We should therefore be growing more seafood to meet the increased demand for proteins. If the 3 billion people that are projected to rise into the middle class by 2050 are eating farmed fish, then the prospects for managing global climate change, and our other ecological challenges, are far brighter.
Ocean health: Ocean aquaculture is beneficial for our oceans, as it reduces the fishing pressure on wild stocks and can be a source for stock enhancement. The assertions by Cufone that net pen culture is detrimental to the marine environment have been soundly refuted by two recent studies: the first, by National Ocean Service researchers, evaluated the impact of net pen culture on water quality and surrounding substrates. They concluded that as long as the water depth is at least twice the depth of the net pens used in the production system, and the currents in the area are moderate (over 0.25 knots), there is no significant detriment on the water quality or the benthic community, at any distance away from the net pens, and that there is often no measureable impact whatsoever.