WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, reintroduced the bipartisan Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act to establish national standards for sustainable offshore aquaculture. The bill would designate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the lead federal agency for marine aquaculture. The legislation would also direct NOAA to harmonize the permitting system for offshore aquaculture for farms in federal waters and direct the agency to lead a research and development grant program to spur innovation throughout the industry.
“The aquaculture industry is growing rapidly, but the lack of a national permitting system for federal waters has held back development and prevented American producers from growing more seafood at home,” Wicker said. “This legislation would establish comprehensive standards for offshore aquaculture, helping U.S. producers meet the growing demand for fresh, locally-sourced seafood.”
“Hawai‘i’s diverse aquaculture produced over $80 million of finfish, shellfish, and algae in 2019. At the same time, the movement to restore native Hawaiian fishponds such as those at He‘eia and Maunalua continues to develop momentum. This bipartisan bill would increase federal support for both,” said Schatz. “I thank Senator Wicker for his partnership, and look forward to working with him to pass this groundbreaking legislation.”
Among other provisions, the AQUAA Act would:
- Uphold existing environmental standards while providing regulatory certainty and clarity to the industry;
- Include a set of national standards to guide development of offshore aquaculture and aquaculture management plans that implement those standards on a regional scale;
- Include a national plan to identify and establish areas particularly well-suited for aquaculture;
- Establish an Office of Marine Aquaculture within NOAA, which would be charged with coordinating the federal permitting process;
- Establish a permit through NOAA that would give an individual the security of tenure necessary to secure financing for an aquaculture operation; and
- Fund research and extension services to support innovation and the growth of aquaculture in the United States.
The full text of the bill can be found here.