Wicker aims to bolster U.S. seafood production

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said he intends to reintroduce a bill that would improve domestic seafood production.

“America imports over 90 percent of the seafood we consume. Simply put, there is not enough fresh, healthy, and local seafood produced in the United States to meet consumer demand,” Sen. Wicker said in his opening statement to the committee during an Oct. 16 hearing on the state of the nation’s offshore aquaculture industry.

Sen. Wicker said he will reintroduce the bipartisan, bicameral Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, which would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to streamline the federal permitting process for aquaculture.

During the 115th Congress, Sen. Wicker sponsored S. 3138 to direct the U.S. Commerce Department to establish an Office of Marine Aquaculture within the NOAA to coordinate regulatory, scientific, outreach, and international issues related to aquaculture.

“My legislation would create a set of national standards for sustainable aquaculture, similar to the standards set by the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” said Sen. Wicker, noting that the law has enabled the United States to have “the best-managed fisheries in the world.”

During the hearing, Sen. Wicker also highlighted his home state’s farm-raised catfish industry, which he said has helped meet the growing national demand for fresh, local seafood, and he discussed how Mississippians are using aquaculture to restore oyster reefs, replenish stocks for sportfishing, and grow seaweed for biofuels.

“Aquaculture will never replace wild-caught fisheries. However, it can replace imports with better American-grown products,” said the senator. “If this happens, not only will the quality of our seafood be improved, but a more robust domestic supply chain will benefit producers, retailers and consumers.”