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Aquaculture Poll Shows Americans Want More Local Seafood and Stronger Environmental and Consumer Protections

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By Milthon Lujan

Washington, USA – As summer heats up and Americans turn to grilling their tuna and gathering for clam bakes, a new poll released by Environmental Defense Fund reveals voters are open to consuming more home-grown seafood if it adheres to strong consumer and environmental standards for fish that’s farmed in the U.S.

According to the poll, 84% of voters support a proposal that “would first examine the risks and opportunities of fish farming (also known as aquaculture) in U.S. federal waters before setting high standards and regulation for safe and sustainable aquaculture.”

The poll comes as there has been growing interest in aquaculture in U.S. federal waters. Internationally, the near-and-offshore aquaculture industry is well-established. Americans import more than 85% of all the seafood we eat, and more than half of that is farmed. But it often comes from countries that lack strong standards for safety and sustainability.

“Americans value local seafood and want to know that the fish they eat is caught or raised safely and sustainably,” said Eric Schwaab, Senior VP for Ecosystems and Oceans. “As aquaculture is increasingly a part of our seafood choices, special efforts are needed to get aquaculture right. By developing a new national standard, the United States can lead the way in ensuring that we meet consumer demand and grow local business while also reducing the environmental footprint of food production.”

Nearly 70% of respondents who eat seafood are concerned about where their seafood comes from, and across the board, nearly 9 in 10 voters signal that increasing regulations, setting higher standards for seafood, making seafood more sustainable for the long term and reducing the environmental harms that can result from fish farming are priorities.

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These concerns cut across the aisle, too — with 92% of Democrats, 86% of Republicans and 85% of Independents overwhelmingly agreeing on the need for stronger regulations on seafood sold in the U.S.

Like other forms of food production, aquaculture has its risks, and voters are concerned about the health and environmental impacts of both foreign and domestic aquaculture. However, 73% of voters say they are likely to eat more seafood if it was raised or caught in the United States and 71% are likely to eat more if it came from sources that will sustainably continue to provide seafood over the long term.

“We already benefit from nearshore aquaculture for things like shellfish and seaweed. We have the opportunity to proactively set a high sustainability bar for offshore aquaculture in federal waters,” Schwaab added.

That’s why EDF announced its recent initiative to ensure that domestic aquaculture in the U.S. is done in the most environmentally sustainable way possible and prioritizes economic growth and jobs for historically disadvantaged communities: those experiencing the greatest burdens of environmental harm, economic inequality and climate change.

With the right regulatory and policy framework, both wild-capture fisheries and offshore aquaculture can be part of a healthy ocean strategy that protects marine life, puts protein on our plates that produce fewer carbon emissions than land-based proteins and delivers good jobs and economic growth to a diverse array of Americans. But there is more work to do before that becomes a reality.

That’s why EDF is:

– Researching, identifying and prioritizing key issues in offshore aquaculture that would benefit from further study, including the impacts of escapes, localized pollution concerns, environmentally responsible approaches to feed and other critical issues.

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– Working with experts and policymakers to develop legislation to examine the most significant issues and help to shape a strong regulatory framework for safe, sustainable and environmentally sound aquaculture.

– Advocating for an expanding aquaculture industry that will be as inclusive as possible, connecting the opportunities and benefits to more Americans.

The poll, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, surveyed 800 registered voters nationwide from July 9 to July 15, 2021. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.4% at the 95% confidence interval.

About Environmental Defense Fund

One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund

Reference (open access):
EDF. 2021. AMERICAN VOTERS’ VIEWS ON AQUACULTURE. POLL REPORT | JULY 2021. 8 p. 

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

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