The American public may be ready to greet aquaculture with caution, a new survey suggests.
For a people renowned for their entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, especially in food production, Americans have been surprisingly ambivalent about the benefits of aquaculture.
Alaskans don’t want it in their backyard, and the majority of American consumers prefer to eat wild salmon rather than the farmed variety. At best, Congress remains lukewarm despite industry pressure.
Ranked 17th in the world, the United States remains a minor player in aquaculture, preferring to import most of its seafood. Much of what it produces in aquaculture is not finfish like the salmon, but farmed oysters, mussels and clams.
However, according to a recent national poll conducted by the highly respected Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), American consumers may be ready to embrace more local production.
EDF, which began when an ad hoc group of scientists came together in the 1960s to save the osprey from the toxic pesticide DDT, is today one of the world’s leading environmental organizations. He periodically turns his attention to various aspects of American life as it relates to the natural world.
What voters think
The poll, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, interviewed 800 registered voters across the country from July 9 to 15, 2021. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4% at the 95 confidence interval. %.
EDF said the poll included registered voters “because they elect decision-makers on these issues and tend to be the primary focus of Congress and state legislatures across the country.”
Almost 70% of respondents who eat seafood are worried about where it comes from. Almost 90% of voters were in favor of more regulation, setting higher standards for seafood, making seafood more sustainable in the long run, and reducing the environmental damage that can result from fish farming.
About 73% said they were likely to eat more seafood if it was raised or caught in the United States, and 71% were likely to increase their consumption if it came from sources proven to be sustainable.
The Environmental Defense Fund says Americans import more than 85% of all the seafood they consume, more than half of which is farmed. It often comes from countries that lack high standards for safety, environmental protection, and other issues, which is likely to go unnoticed by many consumers.
The survey raised serious concerns about foreign aquaculture, particularly over reports of overcrowded fish pens and overuse of antibiotics, with 55% saying they were very concerned.
The public has also expressed concerns about domestic aquaculture for some of the same reasons, including the perceived threat to the oceans and the livelihoods of conventional fishermen. Then there is the growth of offshore aquaculture where farms are positioned in deeper, less sheltered waters with stronger ocean currents. It is now common practice in countries outside of the United States, particularly Norway.
But the most interesting finding from the survey is that most Americans are not inherently opposed to fish farming, with 84% saying they would support the practice as long as it is properly regulated.
Seven in ten respondents said they would eat more fish if it had been caught or raised in U.S. waters, where they felt environmental, safety and welfare standards were generally higher than in many regions of the world.
EDF says, âMore than seven in 10 US voters would eat more seafood if there were higher safety standards for how farmed fish are produced. Voters are concerned about the health and environmental impacts of foreign and domestic aquaculture.
âVoters want more consumer protections and tighter regulations on farmed fish sold in the United States, and more seafood raised here using those higher standards.
“There is strong support for a proposal to” first examine the risks and opportunities of fish farming in US federal waters, before setting high standards and regulations for safe and sustainable aquaculture. “
Interviewees rejected extreme positions on both sides of the aquaculture debate, with the overwhelming majority preferring the above proposal either to the immediate opening of federal waters or their permanent closure to aquaculture.
The report concludes, “Across the country and partisan lines, Americans believe fish farming in US federal waters must be done right – that means taking the time to research the benefits and risks so that we can develop high standards. that keep Americans healthy and our environment. safe.
“When faced with competing arguments from left and right, a strong majority of voters side with an approach to aquaculture that protects our environment, while providing benefits for the economy.”
The majority said huge “factory” fish farms should never be built in US waters, saying industrial aquaculture is dumping fish waste and antibiotics into the seas and making climate change worse. Industrial fish farming also threatened the livelihoods of fishermen and coastal economies.
Yes to farms, no to “factories”
When done correctly, according to EDF, fish farming is the most environmentally friendly and low-carbon way to produce not only seafood, but also animal protein for human consumption, and it creates a sustainable supply of seafood to feed the country and the world.
And this view was shared by 62% of those polled, who also said U.S. federal waters should be opened immediately to private companies. Not only would this create thousands of jobs, but it would also secure the country’s food supply.
Eric Schwaab, senior vice president for ecosystems and oceans at EDF, says: âAmericans value local seafood and want to know that the fish they eat is caught or raised in a safe and sustainable manner.
âAs aquaculture becomes more and more of our seafood choices, special efforts are needed for good aquaculture. By developing a new national standard, the United States can lead the way in ensuring that we meet consumer demand and grow local businesses while reducing the environmental footprint of food production. “
Find out more about the Environmental Defense Fund at www.edf.org