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By ERYN KELLY, SLOW FOOD USA POLICY COORDINATOR

What is Aquaculture? 

Aquaculture is the cultivation and harvesting of aquatic plants and seafood. Done correctly, in balance with nature, it can be ecologically and economically successful in both freshwater ecosystems, such as rivers, streams, lakes, as well as in marine ecosystems that make up our oceans and estuaries. 

Aquaculture spans a massive spectrum, from the small-scale oyster grower harvesting for her community-supported fishery clients to billion-dollar multinational corporations producing tens of millions of pounds of farmed Atlantic salmon a year.

 

 

What is the difference between fishing and aquaculture?

Fishing harvests from a population of preexisting fish and other aquatic species. Aquaculture is the purposeful production of cultivating and harvesting fish and other aquatic species. 

Fish farming is not new. It has been central to many Indigenous diets and communities for millennia, as it is high in protein, nutrient-dense, and extremely cost-effective. 

 

What is the primary goal of industrial aquaculture?

To make a massive profit from a low-cost commodity.

 

What is the AQUAA Act? 

The Advancing the Quality of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act is a bill in Congress that would effectively open federal waters to industrial aquaculture in the exclusive economic zone from state water boundaries to 200 miles offshore. The scale of potential ecological and economic impacts such a law would bring is enormous, and yet Congress has had insufficient discussion. Supporters claim it will decrease the amount of seafood that we import into the U.S. every year, often estimated at between 65 and 90%. 

 

Why is the AQUAA Act bad for you, the ocean, and the earth? 

Think of mass-factory farming … in our ocean. The ecological and socio-economic problems from industrial aquaculture are significant: widespread disease, antibiotic and chemical use to prevent disease and sea lice, the massive harvest of forage fish (herring, anchovies, mackerel, etc.) to feed farmed finfish, the plunder of local fisheries to feed farmed finfish, and the displacement of community-based fishermen. These are just some examples of the threat of industrial aquaculture on coastal marine ecosystems and the communities, including consumers, that depend on them.

 

Why do Slow Food USA and Slow Fish have concerns about the AQUAA Act?

Opponents cite the abysmal environmental track record of factory fish farms and the socio-economics of displacing community-based fishers on a local and global scale as prime reasons for rejecting the bill.

 

Who are just some of the opponents of the AQUAA Act?

Small-scale, community-focused oyster and seaweed farmers, such as panelist Severine Von Tscharner Fleming from Smithereen Farms

Environmental rights attorney and panelist, Marianne Cufone, who runs the Environmental Program at Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law.

Dune Lankard, an Eyak Athabaskan Native of the Eagle Clan and President and founder of the Native Conservancy. His work empowers Alaska Native peoples to protect and preserve endangered habitats on their ancestral homelands permanently.

Panelist Renee Erickson, a James Beard award-winning chef, and co-owner of Sea Creatures Restaurants in Seattle. Her restaurant group promotes responsibly harvested seafood, including wild-caught salmon and locally sourced kelp and oysters.

And among many others, you, the consumer; the person who wants sustainable and transparent seafood while also protecting our oceans. 

 

How do you, the consumer, learn more about the effects of aquaculture? 

 

How do you, the voter, take action to stop the AQUAA Act? 

 

How can you promote sustainable seafood practices today? 

Know the source of your seafood! Ask questions, such as country of origin. How was it produced? Wild-caught or farmed? Does my fish support small-scale fisheries? Never fear asking questions. If the fishmonger or restaurant staff don’t know or are not comfortable answering your questions, choose something else.