It’s Time to Be Honest About Seafood
Demand for seafood is increasing across the globe, and the United States is no exception. Aquaculture, or aquatic farming, is increasingly meeting this demand and now supplies just over 50 percent of all seafood globally. In fact, it has been one of the world’s fastest growing food sectors for years.
The U.S. is the largest importer of seafood in the world, and some of Americans’ favorites—including shrimp, salmon and tilapia—are predominantly farmed these days. Yet, we contribute less than 1 percent of the world’s total aquaculture production. This means we rely heavily on other countries to satisfy our appetites for seafood.
If the U.S. does not increase its domestic production of farmed shellfish, seaweed and finfish, the divergence between what we consume and what we contribute to the global seafood market will continue to widen. This gap may make it harder for our seafood diets to be sustainable. It also means the U.S. won’t have a hand in shaping the standards or economies that contribute to the seafood sector as a whole in the future.
A 2019 bill that proposes a moratorium on commercial permits for marine finfish aquaculture facilities in U.S. waters could serve to widen this gap, and it represents another divergence: between public wariness about domestic aquaculture operations and the science showing aquaculture’s potential for sustainable growth.
While wild-caught fisheries have hit “peak fish” domestically and globally, with limited potential for additional sustainable growth, there is mounting scientific evidence that the U.S. could dramatically increase domestic aquaculture production and do so sustainably, as we did with our fisheries before they peaked. And this growth does not have to come at the cost of our wild-caught fisheries or other priorities for our oceans, especially under careful management and planning.