The Illinois Soybean Association's efforts to generate U.S. aquaculture production in federal waters may have inched closer to reality last week.
The U.S. Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released national sustainable marine aquaculture policies designed to meet growing seafood demand, create jobs in coastal communities and restore vital ecosystems.
"This is big news for Illinois soybean farmers. We have been participating in the dialogue on these policies since September 2009," says Doug Winter, soybean farmer from Mill Shoals and ISA director. "ISA has been encouraging NOAA to keep the process moving every step of the way. And while we may not agree with everything in the final document, we consider this a milestone as we hopefully move toward full-scale aquaculture in U.S. federal waters."
ISA says the key is a plan to implement the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Plan for Aquaculture, which includes the regulatory infrastructure needed for offshore aquaculture development in the Gulf. Ocean cage aquaculture technology has been extensively tested and shows promise for raising fish on a concentrated soy protein diet.
"We are optimistic that the science and research policies include alternative protein and lipid source evaluation. Soybean meal can be used at 10% to 35% inclusion rates in most marine diets. When combined with soy protein concentrate, with a crude protein content on par with fishmeal, soy use could be as high as 50% in many fish diets," says Winter, "Ocean cage technology allows access to better water quality and reduces competition for production space."
In addition to offshore aquaculture possibilities, NOAA officials say new policies will:
• encourage and foster sustainable aquaculture that increases the value of domestic aquaculture production and creates American business, job and trade opportunities
• allow timely management decisions based on the best scientific information available
• advance sustainable aquaculture science
• ensure decisions protect wild species and healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems
• develop sustainable aquaculture compatible with other uses
• support work with partners domestically and internationally
• promote a level playing field for U.S. aquaculture businesses engaged in international trade, work to remove foreign trade barriers and enforce rights under U.S. trade pacts
"Completion of this policy removes a self-imposed impediment that has blocked advancement of marine aquaculture in the U.S. for the past two years," Winter reiterates. "We want to see aquaculture grow and flourish. Economic activity within the industry would be the best driver for economic opportunity for soybean farmers, too, and we hope to see that."