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Pingree Celebrates World Oceans Day with Introduction of Bipartisan Bill to Support Aquaculture Farmers and Harvesters

On World Oceans Day, U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) introduced 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 promote blue carbon ecosystems, protect food security, and bolster shellfish harvesters and seaweed farmers. It will also establish 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.

“Maine’s aquaculture industry is an important and growing part of our state’s Blue Economy. But more needs to be done at the federal level to support our aquaculture farmers and harvesters, so we can help ensure the industry reaches its full potential now and into the future,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “By establishing a USDA office dedicated to supporting aquaculture, the SHELLS Act will uplift aquaculture farmers and contribute to building a more sustainable seafood system. On World Ocean’s Day, I’m proud to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in introducing this bill to benefit our oceans and coastal communities.”

“Shellfish harvesters and seaweed farmers play an essential role in our food supply, but historically they haven’t received the support they need to reach their full potential,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Shellfish and seaweed farms also help mitigate the negative effects of ocean acidification and provide habitat for fisheries. I’m grateful to work with my colleagues to introduce the bipartisan SHELLS Act to create an aquaculture program office at USDA, which will help shellfish harvesters and seaweed farmers grow their small businesses while expanding blue carbon ecosystems that help address the climate crisis.”

“In Virginia’s First District, aquaculture is agriculture,” said Rep. Rob Wittman. “Not only is it an essential part of our economy, but it is critical to improving the health of Virginia's waters. Aquaculture farmers and harvesters will continue to play an increasingly significant role in meeting our country’s growing demand for sustainable, healthy seafood, and the SHELLS Act will help the USDA meet that demand." 

“A thriving domestic aquaculture industry will help us provide healthy and affordable seafood to consumers nationwide. In my home state of New Jersey, seafood is a critical component of our state's economy, and local seafood producers need more federal support,” said Rep. Frank Pallone. “The SHELLS Act creates an Office of Aquaculture within USDA to ensure the Department has the vital resources it needs to strengthen our food system, promote sustainable seafood, and support American aquaculture.” 

A summary of the bill can be found here, and the bill text is available here.

This week, Pingree, who is a member of the House Oceans Caucus, introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen coastal communities and the blue economy of Maine and the U.S. through technological research and development, job training, and cross-sector partnerships. The Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation (Ocean ROI) Act would direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish “Ocean Innovation Clusters” and provide grants for their establishment, operation, and administration.

In May, the U.S. House passed Pingree’s bipartisan Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act, which would direct NOAA to support the current efforts of coastal communities, particularly those who are underserved and rural, that are already facing the impacts of ocean acidification and better equip them with the resources to respond.

Pingree is Ranking Member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and is a well-known leader for Congressional action on fighting climate change. She has sponsored and cosponsored dozens of bills to fight climate change, including several that are aimed specifically at protecting our oceans and coastline. Click here to learn more about Pingree’s efforts to fight climate change.


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