Trump order on aquaculture is needed in Canada: Meeker

EVANSVILLE—An executive order signed by US President Donald Trump promoting American seafood competitiveness and economic growth is good news for the aquaculture industry in the States and is something that is needed in Canada, says a local aquaculture operator.

“Yes, we need the same thing here in Canada, but we are always so slow to move on any of this. Maybe when this really takes hold in the US the Canadian government will pay attention and follow along,” stated Mike Meeker, of Meeker Aquaculture, responding to the May executive order.

“The bottom line is that this is a huge, huge thing for the industry,” said Mr. Meeker. “The president promised he would get rid of or lessen the political bureaucracy in this industry, to get it going in the US. If the same thing ever happens in Canada I will be shocked.”

The executive order focuses on promoting American seafood competitiveness and economic growth. “By the authority vested in me as president of the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to strengthen the American economy, improve the competitiveness of American industry, ensure food security, provide environmentally safe and sustainable seafood, support American workers, ensure co-ordinated, predictable and transparent federal actions and remove unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

The order outlines its purpose: “America needs a vibrant and competitive seafood industry to create and sustain American jobs, put safe and healthy food on American tables and contribute to the American economy. Despite America’s bountiful aquatic resources, by weight our nation imports over 85 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States. At the same time, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines the sustainability of American and global seafood stocks, negatively affects general ecosystem health and unfairly competes with the products of law-abiding fishermen and seafood industries around the world. More effective permitting related to offshore aquaculture and additional streamlining of fishery regulations have the potential to revolutionize American seafood production, enhance rural prosperity and improve the quality of American lives. By removing outdated and unnecessarily burdensome regulations, strengthening efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, improving the transparency and efficiency of environmental review and renewing our focus on long-term strategic planning to facilitate aquaculture projects, we can protect our aquatic environments, revitalize our nation’s seafood industry, get more Americans back to work and put healthy, safe food our families’ tables.”

In terms of policy, the order provides the US federal government to identify and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers restricting American fishermen and aquaculture producers; combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and provide good stewardship of public funds and stakeholders.

“I’m involved in three different aquaculture projects in the US, one in New York and two in Florida,” said Mr. Meeker. “I’ve been disappointed because the political bureaucracy has been as bad in the US as it is in Canada. Now, in one fell swoop all of this has changed, as Mr. Trump said he would.” He noted, “I talked to a couple of people in the industry in the US and they say it is huge, aquaculture licences will be processed quickly and efficiently. It’s what we need in Canada, and don’t have.”

“Everyone I talked to in the US, both government and industry, say this is massive and will change everything,” continued Mr. Meeker. “In Canada we’ve said if our government truly got behind our industry we could do a lot of things that would benefit a lot of people, the industry and economically.” The order is also a big step forward for commercial fishing as well in the US and aquaculture to grow fish. It’s exactly what we need in Canada. I don’t think I will be alive if it ever happens here.” 

“We could grow fish to supply the entire country,” said Mr. Meeker. “We have the ability to grow fish, but because of government regulations and restrictions, we can’t move forward like we could.” He pointed out for instance millions of rainbow trout imported into Ontario could be grown and raised here in an environmentally positive way. 

“The executive order means fish that come into the US will be subject to the same scrutiny as fish US and Canada is selling,” continued Mr. Meeker. “Some countries like China have virtually no standards, no screening at all. This order makes it easier for commercial fishermen and the aquaculture industry to grow and sell fish. It’s huge. The red tape is one of the reasons I’m so involved in projects outside of Canada. Trying to do anything in Canada in this industry is like pulling teeth from a tiger. Maybe when this takes hold in the US the Canadian government will pay attention and follow the lead.”