Task Force To Develop National Standards For Ocean Aquaculture Announced By The Pew Charitable Trusts And Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A new committee consists of leaders from science, industry, conservation, and government who will recommend national aquaculture standards for our oceans in the future. The Pew Charitable Trusts and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have established the Marine Aquaculture Task Force. Aquaculture’s risks and benefits will be addressed by the members of the Marine Aquaculture Task Force based on the principle that marine aquaculture must not harm fish and wildlife or the ecosystems that depend on them. Through generous support by The Lenfest Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, we are able to conduct our Task Force.

In today’s world, aquaculture makes up about one-third of all seafood consumed. This industry has seen rapid growth as wild fish stocks have declined and consumer demand for seafood has increased. Domestic aquaculture production will be increased fivefold by 2025, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. In spite of the fact that most aquaculture is currently conducted inland or near the shore, seafaring fish and shellfish farms are expected to be a large part of the growth in aquaculture in the future. Congress recently received legislation from the Commerce Department that will greatly expand aquaculture in federal waters extending from three to 200 miles offshore to facilitate this growth. The development of aquaculture does not come without significant environmental and socioeconomic concerns, despite the promise of providing seafood, generating jobs, and reducing fishing pressure on wild species.

In his capacity as chair of the task force, Rear Adm. (retired) Richard F. Pittenger noted that “this task force comes at the perfect time.” It is being considered how to implement ecologically sustainable marine aquaculture by the Bush administration and Congress. Pittenger, a former oceanographer in the Navy, retired as WHOI’s vice president for marine operations.

“Opening up our oceans to aquaculture is a great risk, but it’s also a great promise. The nation can benefit from it if we proceed cautiously and thoughtfully,” Pittenger added. “If we proceed recklessly, we could worsen the damage we have already caused to the oceans. It will be a pleasure to work with all interested parties to ensure that aquaculture is promoted properly in the United States.”

The panel includes Bill Dewey, public affairs manager for Taylor Shellfish Company in Washington State, a major producer of farmed shellfish. Having farm shellfish for five generations in Washington, we’ve gained a great deal of knowledge about how to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Keeping the ecosystem healthy is our number one priority. “We need to make sure that we produce a healthy product that is also good for the oceans when we are looking toward the future of marine aquaculture in the United States,” said Dewey.

According to Chris Mann, executive director of the Marine Aquaculture Task Force, “For the first time in human history, economic incentives and technology are aligned so large-scale agriculture will be able to thrive in the oceans.” It is imperative that we take into account very carefully the impact this will have on marine ecosystems and people and communities that depend on them. That is exactly what the Task Force intends to do.”

There will be a range of scientific and policy meetings held and attended by the Marine Aquaculture Task Force, leading representatives from government, industry, science, and the environment will be involved, and a report recommending national standards for sustainable aquaculture will be published. A task force made up of the following members will complete its work within 18 months:

  • Rear Adm. (ret.) Richard F. Pittenger, Chair
    Former Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations
    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
    Woods Hole, Massachusetts

  • Bruce Anderson, Ph.D.
    President, Oceanic Institute
    Waimanalo, Hawaii

  • Daniel Benetti, Ph.D.
    Director, Aquaculture Program
    University of Miami
    Miami, Florida

  • Paul Dayton, Ph.D.
    Professor of Oceanography
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography
    La Jolla, California

  • Bill Dewey
    Taylor Shellfish Co., Inc.
    Shelton, Washington

  • Rebecca Goldburg, Ph.D.
    Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense
    New York, New York

  • Alison Rieser
    Professor of Law
    University of Maine School of Law
    Portland, Maine

  • Byron Sher
    Former State Senator
    Saratoga, California

  • Arliss Sturgelewski
    Former State Senator
    Anchorage, Alaska

Approximately 70 percent of seafood consumed by Americans is imported, and at least 40 percent comes from farms. The United States ranked 10th in global aquaculture production in 2002, accounting for just over one percent of the world’s aquaculture production. Congress was presented with the National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2005 by the Bush administration on June 7, 2005 for consideration and action. Federal ocean waters in the Exclusive Economic Zone, also known as federal ocean waters, would be permitted for offshore aquaculture under the legislation.

A private, independent institution with a focus on marine research, engineering, and higher education, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is located in Falmouth, Massachusetts. In addition to providing basic information about the ocean’s role in changing global environments, it strives to understand the ocean’s interaction with the Earth as a whole. As a result of a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute was established in 1930. In addition to the deep diving submersible Alvin, WHOI also has a fleet of global ranging ships and smaller coastal vessels, as well as many other tethered and autonomous underwater vehicles. A joint graduate education program with Massachusetts Institute of Technology is conducted by WHOI, which has five departments, interdisciplinary institutes, and a marine policy center.

It provides information, advances policy solutions, and supports civic life in support of the public interest (www.pewtrusts.com). In fiscal year 2005, the Trusts will invest $177 million in providing fact-based research and practical solutions to challenges facing organizations and citizens. The Trusts are based in Philadelphia and have an office in Washington, D.C. By strengthening environmental laws and policies, primarily at the federal level of government, the Trusts hope to improve the quality of the environment. In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission released its first comprehensive report on American oceans in more than three decades, which assessed their state for the first time in more than three decades.

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