U.S. Behind in Aquaculture

Dan Aquaculture, This Land of Ours

Atlantic salmon aquaculture cage site
Shutterstock image by leo w kowal

The United States is far behind other countries in the production of aquaculture. Americans are large consumers of seafood despite our need to import most of it, says Drue Winters with Stronger America through Seafood.

U.S. Behind in Aquaculture

“The U.S. is a net-importer of food in general. That statistic came out for the first time recently, but the U.S. imports somewhere between sixty and eighty percent of our seafood, depending on how you calculate it. And fifty percent of that is farm-raised,” she said. “So, we actually produce very little of our own seafood, and we’re getting a big chunk of it from overseas already.

Because of the sustainability and nutritional benefits of seafood, she expects demand to increase.

“Seafood is an incredibly healthy source of protein, so, from the perspective of health and the Omega threes in fish oil, it’s really important. U.S. dietary guidelines call for Americans to eat far more seafood for a range of health benefits. We’re not doing that yet, although seafood consumption has grown,” she said. “So, for a healthy lifestyle and a climate-smart source of protein, U.S. grown seafood is going to be really, really important. In addition to that, people want to know where their seafood comes from, and that it’s ethically grown and ethically sourced, and I think the U.S. aquaculture provides a great opportunity to meet those needs.”

She said there are ways for the nation to expand the domestic seafood supply.

“The real key to expanding that is to move into U.S. Federal waters. The U.S. does have an aquaculture industry, but there are no farms in U.S. Federal waters right now,” Winters said. “The regulatory process is very complex. There are farmers who have been trying to establish operations in federal waters for decades and have been unable to get through the process. So, the real key to being able to expand our seafood supply through aquaculture is being able to do that in federal waters.”

Winters also said federal legislation is needed.

“We need clear authority to farm in federal waters and we need a clear pathway through the regulatory process,” she said. “Stronger America through Seafood has been advocating for a bill called the AQUAA Act in Congress that would do just that.”

Listen to Sabrina Halvorson’s full interview with Drue Winters here.

The Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act was first introduced in 2018 and would establish national standards for offshore aquaculture. It has been reintroduced several times, including in 2024. Though it has bipartisan support, it has yet to make it out of committee. The organization Don’t Cage Our Oceans is opposed to the legislation and credits its actions for blocking the original bill in 2018.

Listen to Sabrina Halvorson’s This Land Of Ours program here.

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.