The end of October – and of National Seafood Month – is an opportune time to reflect on the importance of America’s seafood industry and the fish, shrimp, and other aquatic-based food sources it provides to our Nation.
Seafood consumption is on the rise, in America and around the globe. In 2012, the United States imported $16.7 billion worth of seafood products for citizens across the country. Here at home, the USDA recommends that people consume a minimum of two servings of seafood per week to increase intake of Omega-3 acids, help decrease the risk of heart disease, and improve physical and cognitive health.
Today, America relies on foreign producers for the large majority of the seafood our citizens consume. And approximately half of the seafood we import is produced through aquaculture, the cultivation of fish in controlled and selected environments. To help satisfy our Nation’s appetite for seafood and our growing population, people and business across the country are finding new ways to secure safe and sustainable sources of seafood right here at home.
The United States aquaculture industry is emerging and both within and outside government – including in the scientific and business communities – experts are looking at ways to support and encourage aquaculture that is safe and sustainable for people, species, and ecosystems. A working group of the interagency National Science & Technology Council, for instance, is exploring ways to make aquaculture more accessible to those seeking to expand or start new businesses.
And just this week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy welcomed more than 150 local middle- and high-school students to the White House for a conversation with renowned oceanographer and marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle. Throughout the discussion with students, Dr. Earle emphasized the potential benefits of smart, well-managed, aquaculture, noting that sustainably-constructed aquaculture systems can support ecologically-friendly sources of seafood while minimizing harmful impacts on our oceans. She was sure to note that while the oceans are also an important source of fish for consumption, cultivating fish on land is a key, complementary way to help ensure both seafood security and the safety of our marine ecosystems.
The demand for safe and nutritious seafood is increasing, and the continued growth of properly managed aquaculture businesses can help satisfy this demand. Supporting our own homegrown aquaculture enterprises not only secures a reliable source of safe seafood, but also promotes sustainable businesses and economic development in rural, urban, and coastal communities, encourages healthy eating, and can even help the environment.
To learn more about what the U.S. Government is doing to support homegrown seafood, check out the National Science and Technology Council’s “Guide to Federal Aquaculture Programs and Services.”
Beth Kerttula is the Director of the National Ocean Council and Becca Grimm is a Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.