WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2016 - Soybean growers looking for new markets are welcoming regulations to implement an offshore aquaculture program in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has released a final rule that will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. It authorizes NMFS to issue 10-year permits to grow species such as red drum, cobia, and almaco jack in federal waters in the Gulf.

The American Soybean Association said the rule “represents a key early step in the fostering of a domestic offshore aquaculture industry,” which will need soybean meal to be successful.

“Currently, the U.S. imports 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat, contributing to a trade deficit (in seafood) of $11.2 billion,” ASA said. A “streamlined” aquaculture policy “will encourage development of a domestic industry that creates jobs, meets growing demand for a safe and sustainable source of seafood, and fosters an additional and growing domestic market for the soybean meal that provides such a valuable source of protein in fish feed.”

“U.S. aquaculture currently accounts for 20 percent of the value of domestic fishery landings, (but) U.S. production still lags behind much of the world despite representing a significant opportunity for coastal communities and domestic seafood production capacity,” NMFS said.

Soybean growers may not be the only farmers to benefit from the growth of aquaculture. In response to suggestions that it specify which feeds can and cannot be used, NMFS said that “the percentage of fish meal and fish oil used in aquaculture feeds has decreased in recent years and continues to decrease, in part because many feeds which are free of or low in fish meal and oil are now commercially available.”

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“Alternate ingredients being used in aquaculture feeds include soybeans, barley, rice, peas, canola, lupine, wheat gluten, corn gluten, algae, as well as seafood and farm animal processing coproducts,” the agency said.


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