Legislation introduced to reform Michigan aquaculture

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Senator Darwin Booher

Senator Darwin Booher

LANSING, Mich.Sen. Darwin Booher introduced legislation on Wednesday that would help encourage the expansion of aquaculture in Michigan to help meet the rising demand for seafood.

“The U.S. currently imports 90 percent of the seafood that is consumed,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Given the interest consumers have in buying locally grown, fresh and healthy foods, there is a real opportunity for Michigan to responsibly use its land and water resources to produce more seafood.”

Senate Bills 681-683 would make reforms to the permitting and application processes for aquaculture and would allow for net-pen aquaculture operations in Michigan.

Net-pen aquaculture began in the Great Lakes in 1982 in Lake Huron. Six licensed operations and three tribal facilities are in production in Ontario. Much of the fish raised is imported to the United States, with some of the rainbow trout sold in Meijer and Kroger stores across Michigan.

“I visited some of the net-pen operations in Canada several years ago to learn more about how they operate,” Booher said. “There are a lot of misconceptions and concerns raised about having net pens in the Great Lakes, but I quickly realized that many of those concerns are addressed through rigorous regulations. This legislation will outline the regulatory framework for Michigan.”

Highlights of the legislation include:

  • Would allow for the licensure of net-pens in the Great Lakes or quarries once they have obtained multiple permits providing for appropriate best management practices and regulatory requirements;
  • Would outline siting conditions for aquaculture operations; and
  • Would limit the number of net-pen operations in the Great Lakes to 10 operations for the first five years.

“Although some concerns have been raised about expanding aquaculture in Michigan, these regulations will help minimize potential risks,” Booher said. “All facilities will use fish on the approved aquaculture species list, and they will be following best management practices. This measured approach will allow all industries to continue to grow and work together as we seek opportunities to expand all types of aquaculture facilities and help meet the need for fresh, locally grown seafood.”

The bills were referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee.