Regional e-Notes: September Letter from the Director
It is becoming common knowledge that sustainable seafood is good for our health, our planet’s health, and for our economy’s health. As we prepare to usher in Seafood Month (October), I am pleased to see bipartisan legislation in the form of the ‘Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act (S. 4723),’ co-introduced by our U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “Hawaii leads the nation in modern and traditional aquaculture practices,” stated Senator Schatz. “With this bipartisan bill, we can expand aquaculture opportunities, opening suitable federal waters for responsible growers. It will create new jobs, spur economic growth in our coastal communities, and ensure our oceans are managed sustainably now and in the future.”
I encourage you to join me in taking this opportunity to reflect on the importance and value of seafood for humans, and the impact that marine life has on our planet. Earlier this month, I participated in a few different virtual meetings related to seafood. One was a Zoom webinar on offshore aquaculture in Hawai’i and how partnerships and sound management can support the needs of communities, industry, and the environment through the production of local seafood. Another meeting organized by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership featured presentations by medical and nutrition scientists that were focused on the importance and value of seafood nutrients. The nutrients found in seafood are critical for human health, including lean protein, vitamins, and minerals, and most notably omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Not only do these nutrients support long-term health and development, but some key nutrients for antiviral immunity (Vitamin D, Zn and Se) are also in seafood. A recent study has found that a negative correlations between mean levels of vitamin D (average 56 mmol/L, STDEV 10.61) in each European country and the number of COVID-19 cases/1 M (mean 295.95, STDEV 298.7, and mortality/1 M (mean 5.96, STDEV 15.13). (https://doi.org/10.1007/s40520-020-01570-8).
Currently, the U.S. currently imports at least 85% of its seafood, about half of which comes from aquaculture in other countries. Also, less than 36% of Americans eat the recommended two seafood meals per week week. In an effort to increase seafood consumption, a coalition of seafood organizations have banded together to create Eat Seafood America!, a consumer outreach campaign aimed at boosting the seafood economy and helping Americans stay healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign has been successful with their messaging, which is increasing as we prepare to enter Seafood Month (October), and has released a digital toolkit that includes key seafood messaging, seafood and human health data, recipes, and more. Click here to view or download the Eat Seafood America! digital toolkit.
One of the most holistic approaches to meeting the increasing global consumer demands for seafood is aquaculture, the capacity for which is expanding rapidly. Even politicians are talking more about the importance of aquaculture for the economy and environment, including Honolulu mayoral candidates who have declared strong support for increasing the farming of seafood in Hawai’i. Since our inception over three decades ago, CTSA has been proud to support the development of aquaculture research, development and production in our region to help meet both community and market needs for seafood. We are currently in the midst of our FY20 development process and are processing external reviews. The next step in this annual process will be ranking proposals and requesting proposal revisions in order to prepare the best Plan of Work to our Board and the USDA for approval. We look forward to sharing this PoW with you once it has been approved. In the meantime, we are always open to your thoughts and suggestions on the best ways to support our growing industry!
Cheng-Sheng Lee, Ph.D.