NOAA is developing a national policy for US marine aquaculture, and is holding six public listening sessions in the next few weeks to gather public input. The agency will then draft a national policy, gather additional public input, and issue a final policy. The agency isn't making any estimates on when the draft and final policies will be available.
About 84% of all seafood consumed in the US is imported, and about half of that is supplied by aquaculture, according to NOAA. US aquaculture provides about 5% of the consumed seafood, and about a fifth of that comes from marine sources. (The rest are freshwater species). The vast majority of marine aquaculture products are oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and salmon.
Among the many issues NOAA may consider in crafting a national policy are:
- contaminants in seafood, such as PCBs, mercury, and pesticides. Some of these come from the food given to the animals.
- use of artificial coloring to tint animal flesh
- the spread of parasites and contagious diseases from captive animals to wild ones
- excreted waste from the captive animals
- the environmental costs of using large quantities of wild animals to feed captive animals
- escape of genetically modified animals into the wild
- impacts on threatened and endangered species
- the accidental trapping of predators in the nets that form aquaculture enclosures
- selection of suitable aquaculture sites
- climate change and ocean acidification
- jurisdictional overlaps with agencies such as EPA, FDA, and the Army Corps of Engineers
- direct and indirect effects on aquaculture products from other countries regarding issues such as quantity, quality, and toxicity, industry practices, costs and economic viability, and trade agreements
The listening sessions will be held:
- April 14: Narragansett, RI
- April 19: New Orleans, LA
- April 22: Seattle, WA
- April 27: Honolulu, HI
- April 29: Menlo Park, CA
- May 6: national call-in on a toll-free line
The public has been able to comment via the Web site  since April 6, 2010.
For more details on the meetings, see Aquaculture News and Notices  (March 23, 2010, item). Additional details are expected to be available here.  A March 25, 2010, NOAA press release is here;  media, Monica Allen,  301-713-2370 x140, cell 202-379-6693.