Tony Vaught of Professional Aquaculture Services and President of California Aquaculture Association recently spoke at the 40th Annual Fisheries Forum in Sacramento, California alongside other prominent industry members.
This annual forum is an opportunity for the public to speak with lawmakers about California’s fisheries and to discuss current events and issues of the aquaculture industry. Vaught’s presentation, The Future of Aquaculture Growth in the United States, is as follows:
The Future of Aquaculture Growth in the United States
Aquaculture in a rapidly changing world
By Tony S. Vaught
The interest in the production of fisheries products through aquaculture has seen unprecedented growth over the past 20 years. This is due to many factors which include: increased worldwide consumption, low supply due to environmental impediments to wild harvest, and the domestication and production of new species.
In 2013 the percentage of aquaculture produced fisheries products will exceed 50% of global supply. The challenge is to keep up with the demand created by population growth and the reduction of wild caught fish while keeping environmental and financial sustainability in balance. This satisfies the hunger for providing nutritious food product to high-end consumers and resource poor areas that have a protein deficit.
Recently, the number of commercial fish farms, both land-based and offshore, in almost all other areas of the world has out stepped the growth in the United States. This is largely due to regulatory impediments, financial constraints, and the lack of federal and state funding support. Until recently the price and availability of seafood has been fairly stable with inexpensive imported product making up the bulk of the fish available. This is changing with increased worldwide demand and the narrowing of profit margins between fish sold close to production areas and fish exported to the U.S.
As a result, the supply of domestically produced fish must increase so that prices stay within reach of the consumer. To accomplish this, the U.S. must significantly intensify aquaculture research, identify environmentally responsible resources appropriate for fish and shellfish production, and support private business through research grants and low interest loans. The integration of aquaculture with the commercial wild caught industry, conventional food production, and academia is necessary to establish a secure and safe supply of fishery products. Food production has become a national security issue, with instability, population growth, and resource limitations outside the U.S. reducing imports. Progress can be made by not only utilizing known production techniques and research that has been done elsewhere but to look to new species and methods using the vast resources available.
The question remains, where and how is this to be done? Every site evaluated for aquaculture has limitations and assets specific to the production of product. Primarily they are political, economic or environmental in nature. The technology exists to solve environmental concerns; however the challenge is often financial. Political opposition has stopped environmentally and economically sound projects even at the expense of improved prosperity of the community. Involving the community in the project is essential.
Integrating a variety of environmentally different production areas, species, and research projects can help to focus on the production of food, the creation of satisfying jobs and the security of our food supply.