Given the rapid growth of aquaculture, careful oversight is urgent. Every country has a complex mix of farms, feeds and systems that will require innovative solutions by management agencies, lawmakers and farm managers.
Decrease Dependence on Wild Fish and Fishmeal
Certifications should encourage farming that doesn't require significant amounts of fishmeal or fish oil as feed. As part of this effort, agencies should encourage farming non-carnivorous species, as well as the development of alternative feeds.
Pollution can be reduced with improved monitoring and treatment of wastewater from fish farms. In addition, regulations can improve transparency by requiring fish farmers to report quantities of chemicals and drugs used.
Legislation needs to be created to protect habitat, since aquaculture operations often occur near sensitive environments. Such regulations should also restrict the introduction of non-native species that impact natural ecosystems when they escape, and ensure that the fishing industry chooses the optimum sites for its operations.
Data Quality and Availability
The availability of reliable information on aquaculture operations — such as feed and chemical use; escapes; disease; and habitat and effluent management — is essential to assess farming's environmental impact and sustainability. Responsible producers and governments need to collect, analyze and share this data.
Governments can't do it alone. Credible third-party certification is needed to assess each producer. In the same way that the Marine Stewardship Council has set the standard for sustainable wild fisheries, aquaculture operations need a gold standard that includes a simple label that consumers and buyers can identify.
U.S. ocean management is complex, with many stakeholders and varying interests. An integrated national policy is essential to protect and restore balance to our ocean.
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