CUSP is a new organization working to pressure agencies responsible for regulating the domestic aquaculture industry to approve regional offshore aquaculture plans and open up other opportunities for growth.
The group is made up of industry representatives, feed producers, retail and restaurant customers, researchers, technology and feed suppliers, and public aquariums.
“Efforts in DC have been very successful to date,” said Dr. Steve Hart, executive director of the Soy Aquaculture Alliance. “One of the earliest positive results was the addition of aquaculture to the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan last year. A group of American Soybean Association (ASA) farmer leaders met with representatives from several federal agencies, led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and asked for aquaculture to be included in the plan in a meeting in March of 2013. When the plan was released in April, aquaculture was mentioned several times.”
Over the past year, meetings have been held between CUSP members and lead agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in DC.
“One of the major items CUSP decided to focus on for the immediate future was the Gulf of Mexico Aquaculture Plan that was developed by the Gulf Coast Fisheries Management Council,” explained Hart. “NOAA was charged with developing a regulatory framework to fit the Council's Plan, but there had been very little progression since 2009. CUSP arranged several meetings in DC with NOAA, USDA and several Congressional offices and asked for the Gulf Plan to be sent from NOAA to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and eventual release for public comment so that aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico could advance.”
These meetings were in April of 2014. The Gulf Plan was sent to OMB one week later, he pointed out.
CUSP first met in June of last year and developed three strategic directions for the group: Specific efforts in support of legislative and administrative government action; coordination of education and communication efforts; and development of concepts for aquaculture pilot projects that are economically sustainable at a commercial scale.
Chris Stock of Zeigler Bro’s sat in on the meeting between CUSP members and congressional staff and OMB officials.
“The OMB meeting was significant because this office had just received the recommendations from NOAA for the Gulf of Mexico plan which would allow aquaculture in federal waters,” Stock said. “CUSP’s members reviewed the content of the plan, identified components of the proposed rules which might threaten the viability of the plan and then made recommendations to OMB on these areas. OMB was not allowed to comment on CUSP’s feedback but they were interested in our input.”
Stock said the key is that CUSP played an important role in ensuring that possible difficulties with the rules were identified to the government before a final plan is released. He hopes this should increase the potential for a more viable open ocean aquaculture industry here in the US.
Hart added that CUSP has more work to do to keep domestic aquaculture in front of policy makers as they move forward with the implementation of national ocean related efforts by this White House and the administration that comes next.
“CUSP hopes to keep up these early successes by continuing to follow the Gulf Plan as well as working with the federal agencies to support multiple commercial-scale, economically feasible aquaculture demonstration projects that utilize a variety of production practices,” added Hart. “The hope is that these commercial-scale projects will provide proof of concept that will allow aquaculture to flourish in the US.”
— Erich Luening