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New Paper Refutes Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms and Assumptions

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By Milthon Lujan

By California Aquaculture Association 
USA – A team of authors with combined marine aquaculture regulatory and/or production experience exceeding 120 years has published in Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture a paper entitled, Refuting Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms and Assumptions. The paper is available as open access.

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The authors discuss sustainable domestic aquaculture development as a critical component to achieving greater U.S. seafood security in the future, yet detrimental allegations have corrupted public support. A variety of longstanding and inaccurate myths and assumptions directed at offshore aquaculture farming and its regulation have been foisted on the public.

This paper refutes the most prevalent critiques by reviewing current policies, regulations, research and industry production practices. These criticisms include: inadequate regulatory oversight; portrayal of farms as being high density factories unconcerned by food waste, untreated discharge, use of antibiotic and antifungal treatments; entanglement of marine mammals; impacts on wild stocks and habitats; use of feed additives to pigment fish flesh; unsustainable use of fish meal in feed formulations; potential market disruption by producing cheap, low quality products; and commercial farms and commercial fishers cannot coexist as for-profit businesses.

Marine aquaculture is not risk-free in terms of potential environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts and challenges remain to achieve a sustainable industry. These challenges are well known and addressable by the U.S. and global research community.

Current offshore farming realities bode well for the future:

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– There is a clear global imperative to sustainably produce more seafood to meet growing demand and the U.S. has the marine resources to become a major exporter, if U.S. law can be amended to grant offshore farmers a property right or security of tenure for sites in federal waters;

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– U.S. ocean farmers work within a very complex and effective legal, regulatory, science-driven environment to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts;

– Farm level management decisions and federal and state regulatory frameworks have worked together to bring about environmentally friendly siting, operational, and production outcomes; and,

– The farming community and its advocates in government, universities, and industry recognize it is essential to reach out to decision-makers and the interested public, as well as critics, with the latest research and empirical results to present an accurate picture of risks and rewards to development.

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The authors thank and recognize with deep appreciation Dr. Sandra Shumway, Department of Marine Science, University of Connecticut, for her vision, drive and unbounded enthusiasm as Editor for Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture.  Being an editor is a thankless but invaluable task for which we, as authors, salute Sandy and all the marine aquaculture editors that strive to produce thoughtful, constructive information to move the needle for US aquaculture.

Reference (open access):
Paul Zajicek, John Corbin, Sebastian Belle & Robert Rheault (2021) Refuting Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms, and Assumptions, Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, DOI: 10.1080/23308249.2021.1980767

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