Credit:  Salmon Business

By SeafoodSource/Steve Bittenbender

October 1, 2018

American aquaculture supporters scored a victory late last week as two U.S. congressmen announced the filing of a bill that would give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regulatory authority over fish farming in federal waters.

U.S. Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-Mississippi) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) introduced the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture, or AQUAA, Act in a joint statement on Friday 28 September. The House bill is a companion piece to a bill with the same name filed earlier this year by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

It also comes just days after a federal judge in Louisiana ruled that NOAA Fisheries could not use the Magnuson-Stevens Act to regulate aquaculture in offshore waters.

Prior to that ruling, aquaculture supporters touted the AQUAA Act as a way to streamline the process for which developers received permits for such projects. The procedure, which could require approvals from such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Transportation, was seen as expensive and burdensome as agencies sometimes could not agree which one should take the lead.

“The United States does not have a comprehensive, nationwide permitting system for marine aquaculture in federal waters. Our bill seeks to rectify this by establishing an office under NOAA that would be charged with coordinating the federal permitting process,” Palazzo said. “It would also fund research and extension services for several existing aquaculture priorities.”

Palazzo had been lined up to be the Republican sponsor of the bill for weeks as an industry trade group sought support from the Democratic side. Stronger America Through Seafood touted Peterson’s bona fides in a statement shortly after the bill was announced.

“Today marks a huge milestone in Stronger America Through Seafood’s advocacy journey – one that will set the stage for smooth continued consideration of the bill, regardless of November’s electoral outcome,” SATS Campaign Director Margaret Henderson said in a statement.

Peterson serves as the ranking minority member on the House Agriculture Committee. He also represents Minnesota, the same state where SATS member Cargill is headquartered. Kathryn Unger, the managing director for Cargill’s North American aquaculture nutrition operationsm serves as the president for the SATS board of directors.

“Aquaculture is a fast-growing agriculture industry that is creating jobs and improving our country’s food security,” Peterson said. “It also creates a market for soybeans and corn as they provide nutritious aquafeed. Our bill will streamline the permitting process and build upon research and development efforts that are underway.”