Federal Legislation Introduced that Would Benefit Hawaii’s Diverse Aquaculture

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), a key sponsor of the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act (AQUAA) Act. Photo courtesy of United States Senate.

Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate in late October would establish national standards for sustainable offshore aquaculture and also designate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the lead federal agency for marine aquaculture.

“Hawaii’s diverse aquaculture produced over $80 million finfish, shellfish and algae in 2019,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii and a key sponsor of the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act (AQUAA) Act. “At the same time, the movement to restore native Hawaiian fishponds such as those at He’eia and Maunalua continues to develop momentum. This bipartisan bill would increase federal support for both.”

Schatz, along with Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla, introduced the bill in the Senate on Oct. 28. Wicker noted that while aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector the U.S., it lacks a comprehensive nationwide system for permitting in federal waters, a deficiency that prevents development of aquaculture farms, leading to more seafood imports.

The AQUAA Act would include national standards to guide development of offshore aquaculture and aquaculture management plans to implement those standards on a regional scale, plus a national plan to identify and establish areas particularly well-suited for aquaculture.

The legislation would also establish an Office of Marine Aquaculture with NOAA, charged with coordinating the federal permitting process. It would establish a permit through NOAA that would give individuals the security of tenure necessary to get financing for an aquaculture operation, and fund research and extension services to support innovation and growth of aquaculture within the U.S.