New Marine Aquaculture Fishery Management Plan to Expand Soybean Meal Market

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The Illinois Soybean Association welcomes the Gulf of Mexico fishery management plan, which will allow offshore aquaculture in federal waters and grow the market for soybean meal.

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) welcomes the federal rule published today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) implementing a marine aquaculture fishery management plan for the Gulf of Mexico. This plan creates a permitting and development process for offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The Illinois soybean checkoff has worked to build aquaculture, a rapidly growing market for soybean meal.

“The U.S. currently imports 91 percent of the seafood we eat,” says Tim Scates, farmer from Carmi, Ill., Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) director and representative to the Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA). “Allowing carefully managed aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico will provide a market for our soybeans and a domestic source of sustainable fish. Aquaculture operations can replace marine-based fishmeal with soybean meal, a proven, renewable protein alternative.”

ISA worked with a broad coalition of organizations to support commercial open ocean aquaculture. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a division of NOAA, will implement the rule beginning Feb. 12, 2016, carefully managing production farms to protect oceanic ecosystems.

“The rule and fishery management plan set a global standard for responsible and sustainable management,” says Mike Freeze, president of the National Aquaculture Association (NAA). “The NAA, along with other organizations, has been working with the fishery management council and the NMFS since 2003 to get us to this point. For our farmers and seafood lovers, implementation of this plan is a critical first step to producing more high-quality, wholesome marine finfish. And that will begin to reduce our $12 billion seafood trade deficit. NMFS success rebuilding our nation’s wild fishery stocks proves they can oversee efforts to adequately, effectively and safely produce farm-raised seafood in federal waters.”

According to Neil Anthony Sims, president of the Ocean Stewards Institute, aquaculture has a lower overall ecological footprint on energy use, fresh water, land use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to other forms of protein production.

“Open ocean aquaculture—in deeper water, further offshore—can further minimize potential fish culture impacts,” explains Sims. “We look forward to working with NOAA to implement this plan and create a sustainable commercial aquaculture industry in U.S. federal waters.”

Offshore aquaculture can help meet U.S. demand for fresh finfish like snapper, red drum, cobia and almaco jack. However, harvesting wild anchovies and sardines for fishmeal is becoming more costly and impacts ocean ecosystems, according to Bridget Owen, SAA executive director.

“Including soy protein in aquafeed diets assists aquaculture farmers with reducing costs and improving sustainability of production,” explains Owen. “A wealth of research has proven that soybean meal and soy protein concentrate products provide excellent protein resources to meet the nutrition of a number of shrimp and finfish species.”

Scates notes that while there are thousands of offshore oil rigs in federal waters, fisheries will just now be permitted. “It’s time to raise our own fish,” he says. “We thank the many organizations we’ve worked with and NOAA for seeing this rules process through to this conclusion. We believe offshore aquaculture will benefit consumers and farmers.”

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) represents more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois through the state soybean checkoff and membership efforts. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, promotion, issues management and analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website


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Amy Roady

Mark Albertson

Laura Temple

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Illinois soybean farmers welcome the Gulf of Mexico fishery management plan, which will allow offshore aquaculture in federal waters and grow the market for soybean meal.

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