California Aquaculture Association

Policies and Resolutions

The California Aquaculture Association has adopted the following positions for the following important aquaculture issues:
Agriculture and Aquatic Food Production
California State Law defines aquaculture as a part of agriculture. Aquaculture is nationally an important component of the food supply of the United States. Several of the most important seafood consumption categories and the majority of market value for seafood products in California and the United States are now produced by aquaculture. Aquaculture is no longer a futuristic technology; it is an established seafood source that in the near future will dominate seafood supply as population increases and capture fisheries continue level or declining production rates.As the most populous state, California consumes more seafood than any other state and yet as a proportion of national aquaculture production and on a per capita basis, its aquaculture production rate is declining. The California Aquaculture Association is acutely concerned that this tendency will leave California in a situation by which it produces a sharply declining proportion of the seafood that it consumes. We find this situation ironic in view of the immense agricultural resources within the state, the longest coastline in the western continental United States, and the highest seafood consumption in the country. We propose that, as a part of the food production system of the state and nation, California aquaculture deserves a balanced role in food production.
Antimicrobial (antibiotic) Use in Aquaculture

It is the California Aquaculture Association that the use of antibiotics in aquatic animals is done only in accordance with the Judicious Use Principles and Practices provided by the National Aquaculture Association. The Judicious Use Principles and Practices can be viewed here.

In addition, the California Aquaculture Association has adopted and abides by the Aquatic Animal Therapeutant, Chemical and Vaccine Policy, which can be viewed here.

Animal Welfare
We advocate the humane treatment of animals at all times and we support an animal welfare agenda. Animal welfare is the viewpoint that animals, especially those under human care, should not suffer unnecessarily, including where the animals are used for food, work, companionship, or research. This position focuses on the morality of human action (or inaction), as opposed to making deeper philosophical claims about the status of animals, as is the case for an animal rights viewpoint. For this reason animal welfare organizations may use the word humane in their title or position statements.Animal welfare is of vital concern to fish farmers because inappropriate animal handling induces stress that can then lead to injury, disease, and substandard growth performance. Aquatic producers recognize that controlling animal stress is essential to economic success and each of them must develop procedures that uniformly promote the animal health for reasons of efficiency, product appearance, and market appeal.Because we practice animal husbandry to supply the consumer with animal food products, we do not subscribe to an animal rights agenda that prohibits the use of animal products for human consumption. We view the production of animals for food as a normal part of food production for the consumer who has the freedom to select animal food sources and who prefers those produced under humane conditions prescribed by our animal welfare policy.
Consumer Relations
California aquaculture serves customers statewide and nationally with products including shellfish: oysters, abalone, and mussels; finfish for food: catfish, trout, hybrid striped bass, tilapia, carp, and sturgeon; ornamental fish: koi, goldfish, and other pet industry fishes. California aquaculture also supplements recreational fisheries by stocking catfish, trout, and striped bass in natural waters fulfilling fish stocking contracts with state and other agencies. Other producers complement recreational fisheries by supplying bait fishes to sport fishermen. Aquaculturalists are also on the forefront of fisheries enhancement and restoration by rearing and stocking threatened marine species such as white seabass and white abalone in Pacific Ocean waters. We serve California consumers in many ways today and are constantly looking for new products in the future to fulfill their demand.In many cases, California aquaculture products are delivered live and fresh to the ethnic markets in the state that are an important part of the cultural diversity that characterize California. The California Aquaculture Association represents the growers that operate this statewide production and distribution system. The aim of the association is to keep this system operating smoothly in coordination with wildlife management regulation conducted by the California Fish and Game Department.The CAA is sensitive and receptive to all forms of information that impact the public perception of aquaculture products. The association is committed to action that ensures, to the greatest extent possible, California aquaculture products are wholesome food for the consumer and that its products comply with strictest standards of purity and other regulation.While we are most concerned with California products, we must also be concerned with how media publicize aquaculture issues of national and global origin. The constant stream of media attention on seafood quality and sustainability reflects directly on all aquaculture products. We are seriously concerned by unbalanced reporting of aquaculture issues and by agenda-driven publications that are often misleading, opinionated, and selective in their presentation of information to consumers. Although perhaps well intentioned, ‘advocacy’ science produces questionable results and is subject to conflicts of means and ends.
Environmental Stewardship
Environmental compatibility is the central feature of aquaculture industry policy in California. It is also crucial to a sustainable industry so intimately related to land, water, and wildlife resources. Our very existence is directly related to environmental quality; commercially viable aquaculture production requires a stable long-term interaction with the environment on a local, national, and global level. Our membership is dedicated to environmental stewardship as a public obligation and as an economic necessity for sustaining the considerable investment in our industry.More than maintaining existing resources, California aquaculturalists submit that aquaculture offers numerous positive effects on the environment. Locally aquaculturalists have an intense interest in preserving water resources and quality and often play a key advocacy role in protecting water resources. On a national scale, aquaculture provides one means of protecting and even extending shrinking wetlands in the United States. In California, commercially sustainable aquaculture often provides a natural buffer between urban development and natural wetlands. On a global scale, responsibly managed California aquaculture relieves market demand for over-exploited fishery resources and mitigates the indirect but significant environmental impacts of distant production systems serving the California market.The California Aquaculture Association is dedicated to maintaining and improving environmental standards in aquatic and marine environments and to contributing to environmental quality here in California while understanding the national and global implications of our activities.
Government Regulation
The California Aquaculture Association and its membership advocate full compliance with California law. The association also supports reasonable legislation that enhances environmental quality. California is unique as a leading global economy that is at once a principal urban population center and the largest agricultural producer in the United States. The diversity and dimensions of the state create a complex setting in which the numerous interests have different perspectives regarding the role of agriculture, including aquaculture, and the regulation of environmental quality.The California Aquaculture Association is a relatively small organization consisting of about 300 operators statewide. Most of them are small proprietor operated businesses. Though small by comparison to the rest of agribusiness, aquaculturalists provide a large variety of products using numerous kinds production systems with diverse resources. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to aquaculture ventures in California. We often find that we are denied permission to produce new products because they are non-indigenous species yet many of species that we do produce have been introduced to California including channel catfish, large-mouth bass, tilapia, carp, and even striped bass. We are denied permission by state law to culture native salmon in the Pacific Ocean and the access to marine resources is generally regulated is so stringently that many of us believe to be impractical.As participants in defining regulation and in the legislative process, we find ourselves among much larger interests, including agriculture, fishing associations, and environmental advocacy groups. Because the California Department of Fish and Game, our lead agency in California government, is designated as the principal state environmental agency, its legislative and regulatory viewpoint is naturally influenced by public policy advocated by the environmental organizations and by its primary wildlife protection role. As a minority participant, we must rely on the fairness and good will of those participants and legislators who are disposed to consider our viewpoint in the context of numerous others.Although we find many thoughtful colleagues in the CDFG and elsewhere in state government trying to fulfill statutory responsibility to ‘promote’ aquaculture in California, we conclude that declining aquaculture production is, at least in part, a result of excessive government regulation that creates a difficult entry barrier for new aquaculture producers by denying access to land and water resources and by creating hurdles to advances in aquaculture technology. We can only view the present regulatory climate as antagonistic to the future expansion of aquaculture in California. We hope to reverse this trend.Although we acknowledge inherent difficulties that affect our governmental relations, we also submit that in many cases we have ultimate objectives and common goals that we share with our various colleagues in government and in the legislative arena. It is in this spirit that we intend to engage the issues that affect aquaculture. We also invite a dialogue and lively debate with non-governmental organizations at every opportunity that we might agree in a mutually beneficial viewpoint.
Husbandry Practice
How fish and other products are grown is important to the consumer and to government agencies that regulate aquaculture. Husbandry practices affect how farming transforms resources into products and the quality of the products that result. Issues of animal welfare, sustainability of feed components, and the impact on water quality are topics that are constantly being evaluated in the aquaculture industry.The most important facet of aquatic animal culture, like other forms of animal husbandry, is feeding. Feeding if of central importance to the ecology of both wild and cultured fish growing systems. For the fish farmer, optimal conversion of feed is perhaps the most important technical objective because minimal feed conversion ratios correlate closely with the overall efficiency of aquaculture systems. Aquaculturalists abhor the waste of feed for reasons of economic self-interest and advocate cost-effective formulation of feeds for fish.Genetics and animal breeding are, in the long term, a fundamental part of animal husbandry. Fish farmers employ conventional breeding techniques to produce animals with faster growth rates, better feed conversion, and improved harvest yield. In the future, we can expect that genetic engineering techniques such as cloning and gene splicing to create genetically modified organisms will be available for aquaculture applications. We will carefully observe developments in this technology and adopt new breeding practices only when they are legally permissible and clearly beneficial and acceptable to the consumer.
Marine Aquaculture in California
Shellfish culture practiced in the coastal zone continues a long tradition of beneficial interaction between aquaculture and the environment. Nothing demonstrates the excellence of the marine environmental quality as the harvesting of shellfish that are consumed by satisfied customers that return repeatedly to fulfill their demand for high quality seafood at its best. The California oyster industry that harvests directly from the sea also represents the best of environmental stewardship; it represents a successful aquaculture industry that is a zealous steward of water quality and that provides a rural buffer between coastal development and the marine environment. California abalone growers likewise excel at producing these premium shellfish in a near pristine coastal environment. Almost all customers that frequent the shellfish farms on the California coast would submit that their visit was a high quality interaction with California’s coast.Despite the immense marine resources in California, marine finfish culture lags far behind developments in other states with similar coastal assets. This situation is likely to continue with current regulatory climate at state and federal levels. Salmon culture is prohibited law in state waters by (SB 245, passed 2003). SB 201 (2006) provides a comprehensive regulatory framework for the regulation and permitting of marine aquaculture. We consider the marine aquaculture regulation so severe that it may eliminate consideration of commercial marine finfish culture in California. Meanwhile, the federal government still lacks a uniform policy for conducting aquaculture in Federal waters.There is a hopeful exception to the status of marine aquaculture in California. The OREHAP funded California White Seabass Project conducted by the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego has developed a hatchery with the potential to significantly enhance a depleted white sea bass resource, one that once was one of the most valuable of California’s fisheries. The program, exempt from the regulation under SB 201, operates a hatchery in Carlsbad and rears fish in net pen cages at several offshore locations in Southern California where they grow to a size viable for release in offshore waters. This showcase program demonstrates positive interaction of aquaculture technology and environmental stewardship and the desirability of properly planned marine finfish aquaculture.By 2025, at our current consumption rate with expected population growth, the U.S. will need more than 1.5 million metric tons of additional seafood worth more than 10 billion dollars to the US economy. With marine capture fisheries essentially flat and U.S. aquaculture growth now growing at relatively low rates, only marine aquaculture production has the potential to make a significant contribution to this challenge. The alternatives should be of great concern to every citizen of California. Either we will eat less fish or we will use a great deal of our money to finance the continued over-exploitation of marine fisheries in the rest of the world. The California Aquaculture Association supports removal of barriers to marine aquaculture and its eventual expansion as a significant food production resource.