KODIAK -- Americans have a chance to help shape the way in which aquaculture projects occur in their regions as federal agencies move toward growing the industry across the nation.
Last week the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released draft national aquaculture policies that aim to "increase the U.S. supply of healthy seafood, create jobs in coastal and other communities, spur innovation in technology, and help restore depleted species and marine habitats." The policies are based in part on input from listening sessions held across the United States last year, including Alaska.
Let's put aquaculture in context, advised Larry Robinson, NOAA assistant secretary of commerce, at a media teleconference from Washington, D.C.
Aquaculture has overtaken wild fisheries as the main source of seafood -- 84 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported, and about half of that is farmed, he said.
"Domestic aquaculture produces just 5 percent of the seafood we consume, and we need to do better," Robinson said. "A robust U.S. aquaculture industry based on sustainable practices would significantly increase America's food security."
"After crude oil and natural gas, fish and shellfish are the greatest natural resource contributors to the national trade deficit," Robinson pointed out, calling that "an amazing fact."
"A more robust industry would allow us to reduce our trade deficit of about $9 billion annually," he added.
"NOAA is working hard to rebuild depressed fish stocks, but that will not close the trade gap," echoed Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator in charge of NOAA's Fisheries Service. "In addition to increased production of wild stocks, NOAA's vision is to develop robust aquaculture endeavors that complement wild caught fisheries."
"It's less apparent in Alaska than other places, but in a number of our coastal areas it is getting crowded out there," he said. "Rather than simply allow uses to unfold unilaterally with no consideration to their relationship to each other, we feel that it is incumbent upon coastal management authorities, governors, tribes and federal agencies to think about how these uses might interact spatially. Then we can ensure we are doing a good job at not only creating new opportunities, like aquaculture, but protecting long-standing traditional uses like commercial and recreational fishing."
The agencies aim to have final aquaculture policies completed this year. Once in place, they will outline how NOAA plans to fund research, work with partners to create job initiatives that foster the industry and grant access to favorable sites for aquaculture facilities.
KODIAK A SCIENCE HOTBED
It is not widely known that Kodiak is home to some of the nation's top marine scientists and research facilities.
"Kodiak has been a center of research for years, and nobody knows it," said Scott Smiley, a seafood scientist and professor at Kodiak's Fishery Industrial Technology Center, a part of the state university. Right next door is the NOAA Fisheries research center; downtown are the state Department of Fish and Game labs.
All contain decades of marine research and experience that local scientists will share with the community at a science symposium in April.
The gathering aims to get scientists and fishermen together to discuss cooperative research ideas, where there are data gaps, and other needed projects.
"What has not been looked at that we as a fishing community think is important for sustainable fisheries management and research?" said Kate Wynn, a noted marine mammal expert who is organizing the event.
"Everything in the ocean is connected, and we want to show the community how what we do in our labs directly affects their lives," Wynn said.
The roster of symposium topics filled up fast and ranges from fish diets to tagging programs, ocean acidification, using fish heads, ghost fishing effects on crabs and historical studies.
The Kodiak Marine Science Symposium runs April 9-12. Get more info at http://seagrant.uaf.edu/conferences/2011/kamss/info.php or contact Kate Wynne at kate.wynne@ alaska.edu.
SHARE THE LOVE
Lovers choose lobster as the top Valentine's Day dish. Crab legs and shrimp also get the nod as "romantic meals" on one of the busiest dining-out days for U.S. restaurants.
In a national survey by Harris Interactive, chefs called shellfish "a catalyst for connection like no other food."
The links between food and love have a long history, including the belief that oysters enhance male desire and performance. Until recently there was no scientific evidence to back that up. New studies by Miami and Italian researchers have revealed that oysters contain compounds that prompt the release of sexual hormones.
Women authors are touting omega-3 fish oils as serious libido lifters.
The Alaska seafood with the most omegas of all? Sablefish.
Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. Her information column appears every other Sunday. This material is protected by copyright. For information on reprinting or placing on your Web site or newsletter, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.