HTML _ 93-798 - Aquaculture and the Federal Role
9-Nov-1993; Eugene Buck Geoffrey S. Becker; 15 p.

Abstract: Aquaculture is broadly defined as the production of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants in a controlled environment. U.S. aquaculture was, until recently, considered both a minor part of the commercial fisheries industry and, within agricultural circles, a specialty product aimed at niche markets. But the industry grew rapidly over the past decade, fueled by a combination of growing consumer demand, a beneficial price differential between aquacultural products and wild catch, and the continuing depletion of popular fish species in the wild. This growth has brought new interest in examining what role, if any, the Federal Government should play in supporting the industry. Already in place is the National Aquaculture Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-362), which is intended to promote and support the industry, and to insure coordination of the various Federal programs and policies affecting it. Today, about a dozen independent agencies and departments of the Federal Government together claim a total of approximately 30 aquaculture-related programs. However, the major programs and resources are located within three Departments: Agriculture, which among other things is charged with coordinating national aquaculture policy, Commerce, and Interior. Those who argue for continued and/or expanded Federal involvement in aquaculture believe government assistance -- research dollars, technical and management expertise, marketing promotion, and other means -- is necessary for the industry to realize its commercial potential. They point to the economic contribution the industry can make to many financially-strapped rural communities, to meeting the increased consumer demand for fish products in the face of declining wild stocks, and to stiff international competition, among other considerations. They cite the success of the United States in food production of other animals and plant food crops after appropriate research and extension efforts. Yet some question exists as to whether aquaculture requires additional assistance. The very fact that the industry has experienced significant growth in production and demand in recent decades demonstrates that it could expand and prosper with little if any Federal help, it has been argued. Also, why should aquaculture receive more help when other Federal agricultural programs are undergoing budget cuts to help reduce the Federal deficit? Policymakers may have an opportunity to ponder these issues in coming months, because appropriations authority for the 1980 Act expires on September 30, 1993. Several lawmakers have already expressed an interest in new legislation, not only extending existing authority but also expanding significantly the responsibilities of the Federal Government -- and particularly the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- in aquaculture policy. [read report]

Topics: Marine

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