Rationale and Purpose for the Program
Significant expansion of U.S. aquaculture is in the national interest. The U.S. is the world's largest seafood market. However, rising global populations and steady or declining natural fisheries stocks threaten future supplies of seafood. The United Nations projects a global shortfall of 10-40 million metric tons of seafood needed for human consumption by 2010. At present the U.S. is heavily dependent on imported seafood with over 40 percent of its fish and shellfish supplied by other nations. The U.S. seafood trade deficit is the largest for any agricultural commodity, and the second largest, after petroleum, for any natural product. Further development of a strong, sustainable domestic aquaculture industry can offset dependence on imported seafood and help assure safe, affordable, and high quality appealing products for U.S. consumers.
U.S. aquaculture expanded steadily in the 1980's and 1990's, but is now leveling-off. Most of the growth was attributable to catfish farming which accounts for over two-thirds of U.S. aquaculture production and over half the value. Despite this growth, the U.S. ranks only tenth in the world in the value of its aquaculture production, and over $1 billion of imported seafood now comes from farm-raised fish and shellfish grown in other countries. There is major potential and opportunity for a substantially larger U.S. aquaculture industry comprised of multiple fish and shellfish species.
A national investment in research and technology development will be the foundation for the industry's growth. As the Department of Agriculture's in-house research agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will be in the forefront of fundamental and applied research to enhance the production efficiency, sustainability, and quality of cultivated aquatic organisms.
Aquaculture will be the most likely source of food fish going into the 21st century. With increasing seafood demand and declining capture fisheries, global aquaculture production will have to increase by 500 percent by the year 2025, to meet the projected needs of a world population of 8.5 billion. The U.S. has the natural resources and broad interest from private individuals and industry to be in a strong- position to help meet this need. The application of new tools in molecular biology and re-circulation systems engineering in support of traditional husbandry, bio-control, and environmental sciences have the potential of improving the economic competitiveness and sustainability of U. S. aquaculture. A missed opportunity in U. S. agriculture is the integration of water use between agricultural irrigation and fish culture, i.e. over 150 million ac-ft/year are currently used in irrigated agriculture, that could easily be used to produce 20 million pounds/year of fish valued at $20 billion.
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has the national capability and demonstrated performance to lead U.S. aquaculture research and technology development to dynamically enhance the U.S. aquaculture industry. ARS and partners conduct an aquaculture research program that has contributed to national growth and global competitiveness of U. S. producers. A strong USDA commitment to aquaculture research, technology development, and technology transfer through ARS and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, in cooperation with university and private research programs, and linked to State and regional agricultural extension programs, is needed to energize industry development, improve production efficiency, and assure quality and wholesomeness of farmed aquatic animals. Food safety is a serious concern at is addressed in the National Program on Food Safety-108.
Future Program Needs:
1. Complete funding and staffing of ARS Research centers in AR, WV, and ME.
2. Add a new component on saltwater re-circulating systems research at the Freshwater Institute, Shepherdstown, WV and the program at the Stuttgart National Aquaculture Research Center, Stuttgart, Arkansas in collaboration with the Harbor Branch Oceanic Institute, Ft. Pierce, Florida. These systems eliminate the risk of escapements, bio-security, and issues on shore- line esthetics. Marine re-circulating systems have an immediate application for brood stock development and for research on highly infectious diseases.
3. Initiate new brood stock/genetic improvement programs for herbivorous, omnivorous and carnivorous food species.
4. Initiate strategically located shellfish genetic improvement programs on oysters, clams, and mussels with emphasis on disease resistance and stress tolerance and research employing bio-control approaches to restore habitats to promote sustainable production and restoration of estuarine habitats and water quality.
5. Conduct comprehensive multi-disciplinary research on the nutrient requirements of carnivorous species to allow them to efficiently perform on plant sources of nutrients.
This vision document is within the context of the action plan and identifies opportunities for new research thrusts in genetics including those molecular and husbandry sciences required for evaluating and improving germplasm /brood stock, integrated aquatic animal health management, sustainable and environmentally compatible aquaculture production systems, and quality, safety, and variety of aquaculture products for consumers. Feed is the major cost for production of finfish and at the heart of several issues concerning the role of aquaculture in producing wholesome human food and environmental/sustainability. Application of animal and plant genetics, nutrition science and feed technology can improve the sustainable outlook for aquaculture. This plan will leverage and add to cross commodity basic knowledge investment in biotechnology, genomics, bioinformatics, and engineering by bringing special focus to the solving problems of the aquaculture industry. ARS currently conducts research on several warm-water, cool-water, and cold-water aquatic species at 20 intramural and extramural locations with 49 scientists and $33.3 million in funding. The primary species currently cultured in the U.S. are catfish, crawfish, trout, salmon, hybrid striped bass, and tilapia. However, American consumers demand other species, notable shrimp, for which the trade deficit is now several billion U. S. dollars, annually.
Because aquatic species are cold-blooded and have specific optimum temperature requirements, industry growth and research locations are often centered in specific regions of the U.S. For example, the catfish and crawfish industries are primarily centered in the Southeastern United States, while the rainbow trout production areas are mainly in the Northwestern and Northeastern U.S. The U.S. salmon industry is likely to remain along the coasts of the Northeastern and Northwestern U.S. Mollusks culture occurs along the coast in many areas of the country. Tilapia production is limited to either the extreme Southern U.S. in open pond systems, or in indoor or semi closed systems throughout the country where sources of warm water are available. Although there is only limited U.S. shrimp production in Hawaii and warmer areas of the continental U.S., a number of studies provide information for future industry development, germplasm release, and technology transfer, which could establish a significant industry in the U.S. that can help fulfill consumer demand. Research on ornamental species to close the lifecycle could decrease the harvest of rare tropical species for sale, reduce risks associated with imports and be useful to extrapolate to other fishes as research models. Additional freshwater species such as striped bass/hybrid striped bass, yellow perch, and sturgeon; and many marine fish, shellfish, and crustaceans could develop into viable commercial industries if research programs solve problems limiting commercial culture.
Without additional research, it is likely that industry growth over the next decade will occur in the current commercial culture areas. Research projects should continue in those regions and the species produced, but with a future vision on the development of innovative, intensive culture systems and strategies that close the life-cycle of new species and promote national industry growth and attempt to break the tradition of only regional/coastal production. The ARS National Aquaculture Research Program needs to provide the knowledge to support culture of a wider diversity of species throughout the U.S. in the future.
Mission Statement: Conduct high quality, relevant, basic and applied aquaculture research to improve the efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of United States aquaculture, and reduce dependence on imported seafood and threatened ocean fisheries.
ARS established national programs for organizing and communicating its research programs with customers, stakeholders and partners in 1996. A national program on aquaculture was established to provide leadership in aquaculture research for the U.S. aquaculture industry. The ARS Aquaculture National Program Team held a National Program Planning Workshop on June 5-6, 1997 in New Orleans, Louisiana to establish program direction and implementation of the plan. An Action Plan was written providing the basis for prospectuses and project plans development, ad hoc peer panel review and the authority for the research conducted for the last five years. The second National Program Planning Workshop was held jointly between ARS and The Cooperative States Research, Education, and Extension Service on November 20 to 22, 2002 in St. Louis, Missouri. The objectives of the workshop were to: validate and update the ARS Aquaculture National Program Action Plan, learn about customer, stakeholder, and partner needs, communicate ARS capabilities and accomplishments, and help us maintain program relevance. Review of output from the workshop indicated that the ARS Aquaculture National Program was generally on target. There was a sense of urgency detected in customer presentations for information to solve problems with over-arching themes or contexts such as reducing costs of inputs, increasing production efficiency, improving fish and shellfish health, developing and protecting domestic genetic resources, increasing environmental compatibility and sustainability, and improving product quality. This Action Plan will attempt to incorporate economic evaluation of aquaculture research holistically involving the production system. Integration of biological, engineering, and social sciences will focus on environmental stewardship, animal well-being, bio-security, and other contemporary societal issues in food production. This program will focus on species and products with customer and stakeholder support. Many of the advances made while working on these dominant species is expected to be applicable to many lesser species, thus supporting an increase in product diversity. The Action Plan will be reviewed and revised, as a function of changing research needs, opportunities, priorities, and available resources.