U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Feeding America: Making Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture a Reality,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. This hearing will examine opportunities and barriers to expanding sustainable aquaculture in the U.S. Witnesses will discuss the environmental, economic, and social realities of open ocean aquaculture, and the need for a streamlined and predictable policy framework for advancing the development of offshore aquaculture.
- Ms. Linda Cornish, Founder and President, Seafood Nutrition Partnership
- Dr. Paul Doremus, Deputy Assistant Administrator of Operations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Dr. Ben Halpern, Director, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara
- Mr. Jeremiah Julius, Chairman, Lummi Nation
- Ms. Kathryn Unger, Managing Director, CQN North America, Cargill Aqua Nutrition
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
This hearing will take place in the Hart Senate Office Building 216. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Roger Wicker
Today’s hearing will focus on the potential benefits to our nation’s economy and health of offshore aquaculture. America imports over 90 percent of the seafood we consume. Simply put, there is not enough fresh, healthy, and local seafood produced in the United States to meet consumer demand – and that is what we will talk about today.
Hardworking fishermen across this country are closing that gap – including those in my home state of Mississippi with the farm-raised catfish industry. Mississippians use aquaculture to restore oyster reefs, replenish stocks for sportfishing, grow seaweed for the biofuels of the future, and provide fresh seafood for America’s restaurants.
These men and women are testaments to the fact that our nation already has the best managed fisheries in the world. But bridging the divide between domestic supply and demand will require us also to have the best managed aquaculture in the world.
Aquaculture will never replace wild-caught fisheries. However, it can replace imports with better American-grown products. If this happens, not only will the quality of our seafood be improved, but a more robust domestic supply chain will benefit producers, retailers, and consumers.
We have already seen that the economic rewards of aquaculture extend beyond coastal communities. Aquaculture also creates jobs in states like Nebraska, Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota because products grown in the heartland can be used as a major component of aquaculture feed.
The positive health impacts of eating more fish also go without say. Americans eat approximately half the amount of seafood recommended for a healthy diet. As world population increases, wild-caught fisheries will not be able to produce enough to meet needs.
This hearing provides an opportunity for witnesses to discuss potential job creation from increased aquaculture and the broad health benefits of eating more seafood.
Because of programs like NOAA’s Sea Grant, the U.S. is a leader of aquaculture technology. But we are often unable to use that technology in our own waters. For example, despite the fact that we have technical expertise and entrepreneurs ready to start growing fish, there are no finfish aquaculture operations in federal waters. By carefully considering existing uses of our busy coasts, we can thoughtfully place new aquaculture facilities and reduce spatial conflicts.
Today’s witnesses can provide their perspectives on the benefits of open ocean aquaculture and where we can make decisions about the location of aquaculture facilities.
This month I plan to introduce the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act – or AQUAA – Act. Under this bill, NOAA would be directed to take the lead in the federal permitting process, effectively organizing a currently fragmented regulatory system.
This bill would not allow any shortcuts around environmental protections. My legislation would create a set of national standards for sustainable aquaculture, similar to the standards set by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Because of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the U.S. has the best managed fisheries in the world. We should lead the world in the aquaculture management also.
I invite our witnesses to provide the committee with their views on how we can improve the permitting process for aquaculture in federal waters. I also ask them to discuss their thoughts on potential aquaculture legislation including my AQUAA Act.
So, we look forward to a good discussion and I am very pleased to recognize my friend and the Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell.
Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at Commerce Committee Hearing Entitled “Feeding America: Making Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture a Reality”
Witnesses: Ms. Linda Cornish, Founder and President, Seafood Nutrition Partnership;
Dr. Paul Doremus, Deputy Assistant Administrator of Operations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;
Dr. Ben Halpern, Director, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara;
Mr. Jeremiah Julius, Chairman, Lummi Nation; Ms. Kathryn Unger, Managing Director, CQN North America, Cargill Aqua Nutrition
October 16, 2019
CANTWELL: Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you for holding this hearing and inviting one of our witnesses, especially Chairman Jay Julius of the Lummi Nation I appreciate him traveling all the way from the Northwest. Chairman Julius is a lifelong fisherman and knows firsthand how fish farms can impact wild salmon stocks and our fishing rights.
Fish farm failures, mismanagement, and poor oversight have adversely impacted our fisheries, our coastal communities, and our ecosystem. Chairman Julius and everyone in Washington state knows about the high quality, sustainable seafood that can come from our state’s shellfish farms – but I also appreciate the fact that the chairman is looking beyond shellfish and trying to look at the promise that this might bring. But, we also have to look at the potential for tremendous peril when it comes to finfish agriculture. We must proceed with caution and get this right.
Two years ago in my state a net pin failed and broke apart, sending around 300,000 non-native, farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. This salmon spill threatened Tribes, our fisheries, and our ecosystem. The spill of non-native fish into the Salish Sea exposed our native fisheries to disease and habitat competition. People from all over the world travel to the Pacific Northwest to have our salmon. The fish farm failure compromised that economic livelihood of many people. And yet there was no plan in place for how to respond to the spill.
Recognizing that their sacred and protected resources were at risk, the Lummi Nation and their Tribal partners sprang into action to catch the escaped fish. Our Washington state legislature responded to the crisis by phasing out farming of non-native finfish agriculture in our waters and imposed fines on the cook agriculture for its negligence.
Washington’s spill wasn’t the first incident and it certainly won’t be the last. Just two months ago, the same company had yet another salmon spill on the Atlantic coast in Canadian waters near the United States. And even though this spill happened across maritime borders in Canada, we all know that fish move. These farmed salmon swam down the coast and so we’ve heard very little in response from NOAA about how to deal with these spills, or the fact that I believe they didn’t take the spill in Washington seriously enough.
We also have international examples of where finfish agriculture operations and oversight failed. In 2016, salmon farming in Chile contributed to a harmful algae bloom that killed nearly 300 million salmon and countless shellfish. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating a Norwegian salmon farming company for allegations of its largescale use of pesticides harming the environment.
So let me be clear: poorly-managed and under-regulated offshore agriculture poses a direct threat to our marine ecosystems and domestic fisheries. It is my understanding that the chairman is working on legislation to seize the opportunity that aquaculture represents, but we would be remiss if we didn’t address some of the challenges.
There are many unanswered questions when it comes to offshore aquaculture. Who decides where to site the facilities? Who will monitor and inspect the offshore fish farms? What response plans are in place for companies to respond? In our instance, the company blamed the changing of the tide in the full moon, I think it was, and basically said that was the problem that broke open their pins. When in reality, it was just gross negligence.
So, what happens to bad actors? Will these offshore farms impact our wild fisheries? And how do we prevent and monitor for entanglement and bycatch? So, these are just some of the questions, Mr. Chairman, and I know we could go on. But our maritime ecosystems are already under dire threat from rapidly-changing acidity in our oceans, marine heat waves, oxygen depletion, and global climate change. And while we need high-quality protein to feed the world, it must be sustainable. So we can’t further exacerbate the problems of our current fisheries, and so we must answer these questions.
So, I look forward to working with you on this issue. I know the many challenges, and as I said, our shellfish industry has proven that there are great ways that you can produce aquaculture, but they meet many high standards and I applaud them for meeting those standards.
I would just point out, Mr. Chairman, our committee rules require that witnesses provide written testimony in advance of the hearing. Yet, as of 9pm last night, we still did not have testimony from the agency witnesses because, as I understand it, they are going through a review of the Department of Commerce. These issues are legally and scientifically hard and NOAA needs to make sure that they are giving us this information so that we can have answers and questions prepared.
Our Pacific Northwest shellfish growers consistently demonstrate that science-based sustainable aquaculture is a benefit to both the environment and the economy, and so we need to make sure that we are fully addressing these issues at today’s hearing.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Linda CornishFounder and PresidentSeafood Nutrition Partnership
Dr. Paul DoremusDeputy Assistant Administrator of OperationsNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Ben HalpernDirectorNational Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara
Mr. Jeremiah JuliusChairmanLummi Nation
Ms. Kathryn UngerManaging DirectorCQN North America, Cargill Aqua Nutrition