U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing titled, “Growing the Future: Opportunities to Support Domestic Seafood Through Aquaculture,” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. The hearing will examine the current state of aquaculture in the United States, future opportunities for offshore, coastal, and inland communities, and the potential impact on the economy.
- Dr. Kelly Lucas, Director of the Marine Aquaculture Center, University of Southern Mississippi
- Mr. Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO, Prairie AquaTech
- Mr. Donald Kent, President and CEO, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
- Mr. Barton Seaver, Chef and Author
*Witness list subject to change
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
Good morning. Thank you all for being here. THyuhoday, we will hear from some remarkable leaders in the field of aquaculture. They are working to ensure Americans have access to safe and sustainably grown seafood from right here at home.
Many of us have benefitted from aquaculture, perhaps without realizing it. For years, lakes and rivers in my home state of South Dakota have been stocked with juvenile game fish raised in hatcheries. The town of Spearfish houses the Fish Culture Hall of Fame, which documents the history and the importance of this type of aquaculture. The effort it took to transport fish eggs and juvenile fish in the days before refrigeration or reliable transportation is truly impressive.
Thanks to its vast coastlines, the United States has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, and yet we import 90 percent of our seafood. Half of those imports are not wild caught and are farmed in other countries around the world where we have little control over the practices and conditions in which the seafood is grown or harvested.
Domestic farming of seafood, done in a safe, well-monitored manner, can provide economic opportunities for all Americans, both for our coastal and inland communities. Agricultural states like mine can play an important role in providing feed for fish farms, and everyone benefits from having increased domestic seafood production.
Currently, however, those seeking to expand the domestic farming of seafood often face a confusing regulatory maze. Permits for an aquaculture farm may be required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, the Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration. This overlapping web of federal jurisdiction and lengthy, sometimes unending permitting process can take ten years or more – scaring many investors away. Too often, this results in entrepreneurs taking their skills, talents, and ideas overseas to a more business-friendly environment.
The United States is a global leader in how to manage wild caught fisheries, but we regularly send our expertise, our innovation, and our dollars overseas when it comes to aquaculture. Rather than buying seafood from a global market that has seen repeated instances of labor and environmental violations, we should do a better job at home. It’s time we straighten our byzantine permitting regime and start growing some more fish.
Out witnesses today, are working to promote aquaculture in the United States and will share with us some of their ideas to reduce the barriers to aquaculture and support innovative strategies for food security.
I’m pleased to welcome a fellow South Dakotan who is bringing South Dakota soy into the fish farming market in a big way. Mr. Mark Luecke (LOO-KEE) is the CEO of Prairie AquaTech, a technology company that has developed and patented a high-protein fish feed from soy meal. Prairie AquaTech is based in Brookings, South Dakota, and due to high demand in their product, they will be breaking ground on a new commercial facility this spring that will process 30,000 tons of feed per year.
As a scientist and the Director of the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Kelly Lucas will testify about her work overseeing a $25 million aquaculture facility, which employs cutting-edge technology, peer-reviewed research, and hands-on testing to grow fish in an environmentally responsible and economically feasible manner.
Mr. Barton Seaver (SEE-ver) began his career as a celebrity chef here in Washington, D.C., where he realized the key role aquaculture plays as a sustainable food resource and the importance of seafood in a healthy diet. He is the author of seven highly regarded books and is an internationally recognized speaker on the topic of sustainable seafood and aquaculture.
Testifying with firsthand experience in aquaculture is Mr. Don Kent, who has spent many years working to get a commercial-scale fish farm up and running off the coast of Southern California.
Aquaculture is the fastest growing food industry in the world. If encouraged in the United States, it has the potential to create jobs and boost the economy, from states like South Dakota, to the coasts. As Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “this country, with its abundant coastline, should not have to import billions of pounds of seafood each year.” Let’s harness this opportunity and become the world leader in safe and sustainable domestic seafood production.
I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for his opening statement.
Florida has long been called the fishing capital of the world. With roughly twenty-three hundred miles of shoreline and year-round, fishing-friendly weather, Florida is the source of hundreds of millions of dollars of shrimp, snapper, grouper, spiny lobster, and stone crab on the plates of America’s restaurants and households.
Even so, there is room to grow this important sector of our economy. Although America consumes the second largest amount of seafood in the world, over ninety percent of it comes from other countries. That is a staggering percentage, Mr. Chairman.
We need to dramatically grow our domestic seafood capacity and I think that marine aquaculture should be a part of that.
A variety of fishermen, entrepreneurs, academics and environmental groups have started to come together to figure out how we can develop a sustainable U.S. marine aquaculture industry.
And Florida is leading the pack. Just last year, a group at the University of Miami received an almost one million dollar grant from the National Sea Grant college program to advance technology for captive spawning of different marine species.
The question is: how do we turn all of this interest into commercially viable businesses? This is where we have run into problems in the past.
Permitting marine aquaculture is not a simple matter. In any aquaculture permitting process we must ensure that consumers are able to distinguish between fish that have been raised in a pen and fish caught by commercial fishermen. We also need to protect our environment. Any type of permitting framework needs to ensure that we avoid harmful effects of waste discharge, fish disease, chemical and drug use, escapes and invasive species.
I also want to thank our witnesses for testifying today, especially Donald Kent, President and CEO of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.
We have the opportunity as a nation to develop a sector that will bring jobs and economic growth to many communities across the nation. We need to take advantage of it. I look forward to hearing our witnesses’ ideas on the best paths forward.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Donald B. KentPresident/CEOHubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Kelly Lucas Ph.D.DirectorThad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center
Mark LueckeManaging Director and CEOPrairie AquaTech
Barton SeaverDirectorSustainable Seafood and Health Initiative Center for Health and the Global Environment