WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., joined Senators Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Senator Angus King, I-Maine, in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to uplift and support aquaculture and aquaculture farmers and harvesters. The Sustaining Healthy Ecosystems, Livelihoods, and Local Seafood (SHELLS) Act will create a program office for aquaculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to bolster shellfish harvesters and seaweed farmers, protect food security, and promote blue carbon ecosystems.
“Seafood is an important component of America's food supply chain and a major economic driver in communities like Mississippi's Gulf Coast,” Wicker said. “This legislation would give aquaculture farmers a more direct line to access USDA resources and programs so that they can better meet demand in this growing industry.”
“Shellfish farming is a pillar of the Ocean State’s economy and culture,” said Whitehouse, co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus. “Our SHELLS Act will expand federal programs that provide Rhode Island aquaculture farmers the tools and resources to sustainably grow the industry, create new jobs, and continue farming the best oysters in America.”
“For generations, Maine’s ocean economy has supported communities along our coast – aquaculture presents an exciting new opportunity to expand on this long tradition and create more good-paying jobs in the 21st century,” King said. “From shellfish to seaweed, the bipartisan SHELLS Act would give aquaculture entrepreneurs and professionals a designated point person in the federal government who understands their needs and can best respond to them. This is a commonsense way to invest in Maine’s aquaculture farmers and harvesters, produce more world-class seafood products, and build on our state’s legacy of sustainable maritime innovation. I am grateful for my colleagues’ bipartisan support on this important effort to grow Maine’s invaluable ocean economy.”
The SHELLS Act also establishes an Aquaculture Advisory Committee to oversee program activities, support the development of best practices, provide technical assistance, and acknowledge the history, use, and preservation of Indigenous and traditional aquaculture practices and ecological knowledge.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Ed Case, D-Hawaii, Rob Wittman, R-Va., Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.
The full text of the bill can be found here.