NOAA Fisheries has released its first-ever National Seafood Strategy for the United States after several rounds of stakeholder input and a public comment period earlier this year.
This strategy underscores NOAA’s strong commitment to seafood sector resilience and aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals for economic recovery, environmental sustainability, and climate resilience.
Further, the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health points to the need for increased seafood consumption in the United States, which this strategy aims to address.
NOAA states that the strategy also responds to the unprecedented challenges facing the US seafood industry, including climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, new technologies and other ocean uses, significant labor shortages, and aging infrastructure.
The National Seafood Strategy outlines NOAA Fisheries’ direction for supporting a thriving domestic U.S. seafood economy. It describes its approach to enhancing the resilience of the seafood sector in the face of climate change and other stressors.
Its stated aims are to ensure US seafood continues to be produced sustainably, for the US seafood sector to contributes to climate-ready food production and to meeting critical domestic nutritional needs, for the sector to increase production to support emplyment, the economy, for supply chains and infrastructure to be modernised with more value-added activity in the United States, and for opportunities to be expanded for a diverse and growing seafood workforce.
NOAA states that public comments and stakeholder input have been integral to finalising the strategy and helping guide the direction of its work to support the seafood sector. More than 150 separate comments were received, about a quarter of which were from organisations, including fishing, aquaculture, and seafood associations, non-profits, NGOs, aquariums, and state agencies.
In addition, five regional fishery management councils provided comment letters. Many of the comments were used to strengthen and improve the strategy, particularly to clarify phrases or context, such as adding descriptions of other agency strategies and policies. One significant change from the draft is the addition of an Equity and Environmental Justice objective under Goal 4.
The aim of the National Seafood Strategy is to reinforce NOAA Fisheries’ critical science and management support to the seafood sector. ‘Stakeholders recognise that the science conducted by the agency to support management of wild capture fisheries and seafood farming is essential for the well-being of the US seafood sector,’ an NOAA representative stated.
‘The industry needs NOAA Fisheries and other federal agencies to provide more support for and attention to adaptation to climate change, changing markets, and new ocean uses; new domestic sources of seafood supply (wild capture and aquaculture), fair trade, workforce development, and recapitalising and modernising seafood infrastructure.’