The U.S. domestic aquaculture industry is committed to supplying consumers with consistent, high quality, safe products that are produced in an environmentally sound manner. Numerous federal and state agencies are involved with maintaining the wholesome attributes of farm-raised seafood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), working with State Departments of Agriculture and the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), regulates aquaculture feeds to help ensure that they are safe and do not contain contaminants or illegal substances.
The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference in cooperation with the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state agencies administers a certification program requiring all shellfish dealers to handle, process, and ship shellfish under sanitary conditions and maintain records that the shellfish were harvested from approved waters. State agencies establish standards for shellfish growing areas and regularly monitor water quality to make sure that growing waters meet those standards.
Fish and shellfish packers, warehouses, and processors must comply with the mandatory requirements of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Program administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The program identifies potential food safety hazards and develops strategies to help ensure that they do not occur. All of these controls help to make farm-raised seafood products safe and wholesome foods.
Stewardship of the world’s natural resources is everyone’s responsibility, and it is the goal of the domestic aquaculture industry. Producers work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Program (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), and numerous state environmental agencies to ensure that they maintain water quality, native fish stocks, and environmental quality.
An extensive state and federal permitting and enforcement program ensures that farms are established and maintained in a manner that helps to minimize their environmental footprint and often improves environmental conditions. The current regulatory system helps ensure U.S. aquaculture continues to be compatible with state and federal water quality requirements and complies with watershed management plans.
U.S. aquaculture helps to conserve native fish, shellfish, and plant populations as well as to enhance dwindling stocks. Farm-raised fish, shellfish, and plants reduce the harvest pressure on wild stocks while satisfying the public’s growing need for these products. Domestic companies produce a variety of farmed fish to stock public and private waters with sport fish and provide the recreational fishing community with a sustainable source of baitfish. Shellfish farmed on leased lands have the opportunity to spawn prior to harvest. Because the young shellfish travel on water currents before settling down, they can help to establish natural shellfish beds that perform the important functions of filtering the water and establishing better growing conditions for other marine organisms. This adds to biodiversity, an important factor in stabilizing ecosystems.
U.S. growers are committed to the health of their fish and shellfish. This means that they must maintain good water quality, provide a nutritious and easily digestible food supply, and ensure that the stocking density is appropriate for the species being grown. All of these considerations contribute to the health of the stock, reduce stress, and eliminate the need for drugs. In the United States, very few drugs have been approved for use with aquatic animals. Before a drug is approved by the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), it must be shown that it will not harm the environment or public health.
The U.S. domestic aquaculture industry also works closely with the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and the Office of International Epizootics (OIE) to avoid the unintentional introduction of exotic, non-native species that may prove detrimental to the environment, native fish stocks, and the aquaculture community. In the U.S., importation of aquatic animals or plants is regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the USDA.