New Study Finds Return on Investment for Government Spending on Aquaculture

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By Milthon Lujan

USA.- Federal investments in aquaculture account for a small fraction of all government-funded research spending but result in a significant return on investment in terms of production value, according to a study published today by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.


The study is the first of its kind to examine US federal grants awarded in the field of aquaculture, which includes aquatic organisms raised for food, feed, fuel, and recreation. To conduct this analysis, the researchers compiled a database of nearly 3,000 aquaculture grants awarded from 1990 to 2015. The study found that federal agencies awarded nearly $1 billion dollars in grants for aquaculture research in the past quarter century, and these grants had an estimated 37-fold return on investment since 2000.

“Many industries rely on basic and applied science supported by the federal government and conducted at universities, small businesses, and federal research labs—and the aquaculture industry is no different,” said lead author Dave Love, Associate Scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. “Federal dollars spent on aquaculture R&D appear to be highly impactful.”

According to the study, the species that received the most grant support were algae, oysters, salmon, trout, catfish, and shrimp. Federal funding was concentrated in states along the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes. Grants focused on animal health and disease, improving animal production efficiency, genetics and breeding, animal nutrition, and supporting education and job training opportunities for students.

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are the lead US government agencies overseeing aquaculture, and combined they provide 80 cents of every dollar awarded by the federal government for aquaculture research. Researchers note that budget cuts to USDA and NOAA for the 2018 fiscal year proposed by the Trump Administration could have an outsized impact on US aquaculture. For instance, NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant), which makes up two-thirds of NOAA’s funding for aquaculture, would face elimination under the administration’s budget proposal. Congress preserved 2017 funding for the program in a recent spending bill, despite a previous recommendation from the Trump Administration to reduce funding for Sea Grant by $30 million.


“As Congress debates future spending on aquaculture research, we hope this study will provide stakeholders with information they need to help define research priorities and aid in policymaking,” said Love.

“An Analysis of Nearly One Billion Dollars of Aquaculture Grants made by the United States Federal Government from 1990 to 2015” was written by David C. Love, Irena Gorski, and Jillian P. Fry and published in the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society (JWAS) on May 7, 2017. The article can be freely downloaded at the JWAS website.

Reference (open):
Love, D. C., Gorski, I. and Fry, J. P. (2017), An Analysis of Nearly One Billion Dollars of Aquaculture Grants Made by the US Federal Government from 1990 to 2015. J World Aquacult Soc. doi:10.1111/jwas.12425

Source: Johns Hopkins University

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