As fish stocks around the globe dwindle, people are turning to aquaculture to provide suitable protein resources. Aquaculture, in some form, has been around for thousands of years used by ancient Chinese, aboriginal Australians, and Polynesians on the Hawaiian Islands. While traditional methods still exist, increasing use a technology, hormones, and other chemicals can pose harm to local habitats and requires some level of monitoring.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a new Aquaculture Program with several priority areas including: science and research, regulation and policy, international activities, and outreach /education. The overriding objective is to establish a strong, effective set of rules for marine aquaculture within the U.S. For years, we have trailed behind in the aquaculture industry, and with this initiative NOAA hopes to make the U.S. a world leader.
Currently the United States consumes almost 5 billion pounds of seafood annually; this includes shellfish as well as finfish. Globally, almost 50% of all consumption comes from aquaculture. Despite this high percentage, only about 5% of U.S. consumption comes from domestic aquaculture sources. Currently, we import about 84% of our seafood. This indicates areas open to considerable amount of growth in our own country, but requires guidelines to ensure that our coastal environments remain unaffected.
Some of the initiatives target alternative food development and stock assessment. Both of these areas could help the flagging fisheries, but also have the potential to cause deleterious effects to the local ecosystem without proper management. Currently the NOAA Aquaculture Program is open for public comment, click here to view the document.