Offshore fish farms will not eliminate trade deficit, claims consumer rights group –

Offshore fish farms will not eliminate trade deficit, claims consumer rights group Published:  09 April, 2008

COMMERCIAL-SCALE open ocean aquaculture will not eliminate the USA’s seafood trade deficit despite government claims, according to a new report by consumer rights organisation Food & Water Watch.

The report, entitled ‘Fish Story: Why Offshore Fish Farming Will Not Break U.S. Dependence on Imported Seafood’, claims to explain why ocean fish farming will not reduce the $9.2 billion U.S. seafood trade deficit and poses what it calls a “grave threat” to oceans, coastal communities and fishing.

“The U.S. government has been pushing to open public waters to an industry that has failed to demonstrate that the practice is environmentally sustainable, technically possible or financially viable on a commercial scale,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director. “Offshore aquaculture will not solve our import problem and, furthermore, could threaten human health and the environment.”

Fish Story examines seafood trade patterns and the track record of existing ocean fish farms to demonstrate how an expanded U.S. ocean fish farming industry is not likely to reduce U.S. dependence on seafood imports, says Food and Water Watch. According to the report, the United States exports more than 70 percent of its seafood to countries where it fetches the best prices. In turn, U.S. retailers buy their seafood from wherever they can get it cheapest, often in places with lower quality and health standards, such as China and Thailand, it contends.

“These trading patterns benefit the bottom lines of global seafood companies, and unfortunately, we consumers are the ones who lose out,” stated Hauter. “We are importing cheaper seafood that may have been produced in conditions that would not be legal in the United States. Add this to an inadequate food inspection programme that inspects less than two percent of all imports, and we’re looking at a potential human health disaster.”

It is likely that fish grown in offshore aquaculture cages would follow the current export pattern, says Food & Water Watch, and the small quantity of newly farmed fish likely to be kept in the USA would not offset the vast amount of fish imported. In order to help lessen the seafood trade deficit, Food & Water Watch recommends reducing U.S. reliance on imports by decreasing exports, and increasing domestic consumption of seafood that was caught in the United States. In fact U.S. fishermen already harvest enough fish to satisfy more than half of domestic consumption, it claims.

“Instead of using tax dollars to promote a new industry with known risks and questionable benefits, our government should focus its resources on protecting consumers from unsafe imports,” stated Hauter. “Our government needs to invest in a stronger import inspection programme and promote safe and sustainable seafood for American consumers.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.