East Coast Shellfish Growers Association
Legislative Agenda February 2007
The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association represents hundreds of small shellfish farmers from Maine to
Florida. We estimate that annual revenues from 1300 east coast farms approach $80 million annually.
Consumer demand is strong for our products that include oysters, clams, scallops and mussels, and many states
continue to enjoy substantial growth in shellfish aquaculture. The economic impact of the shellfish industry
in terms of jobs and secondary supporting industries is significant in many coastal communities. As the industry
grows we need to plan to avoid conflicts with coastal development, degradation of water quality, losses due to
predators, disease and invasive species, and improve our ability to take advantage of changing market trends.
Adequate funding of the sustainable development of commercial shellfish farming will have the dual return of
fostering economic growth and benefiting the environment.
Issue: ACOE - EPA - NOAA interaction on shellfish permitting issues
Shellfish aquaculture has been shown to be both environmentally friendly and sustainable. However,
certain Federal agencies have begun to interpret environmental regulations in ways that may severely
restrict the methods used to grow and harvest shellfish. NOAA consultations under the Endangered Species
Act and the Essential Fish Habitat provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act have not considered the significant
ecological benefits of shellfish culture. The Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft Nationwide Permit
for shellfish aquaculture that will make it more difficult and more expensive for our shellfish farms to operate.
We have participated in the public process with the Corps to point out our concerns with their draft proposed
rule, but we have no assurances that our concerns will be addressed in the final rule. For instance we find
particularly onerous the finding by the Corps that shell used in oyster culture and the shellfish themselves
can be considered "fill" under the Clean Water Act. Clearly, the Clean Water Act was not meant to impose new
restrictions on environmentally positive activities like shellfish farming.
Action, Army Corps of Engineers:
If the ACOE's new Nationwide Permits are finalized in a manner that does not adequately address the seafood
community's concerns of duplicative and economically burdensome requirements, shellfish farmers will work with
their respective Congressional delegations to move legislative language clarifying that molluscan shellfish are
not pollutants under the Clean Water Act and, as such, no new federal permitting requirements are necessary.
The nation's shellfish farmers request that the agency:
1. conduct its consultations programmatically so that individual shellfish farmers are not required to
shoulder the financial burden of the consultation processes.
2. consider all available scientific evidence in conducting its consultation process, including the
significant scientific evidence showing that shellfish culture results in an overall environmental benefit.
3. consider the habitat value provided by shellfish and shellfish aquaculture gear in determining the
effects of shellfish farming on managed fish and wildlife species.
4. consider that the vast majority of the nation's shellfish farms have been in existence for a number
of years, over a century in some cases, and are therefore part of the environmental baseline against which
future effects are evaluated.
Issue: FDA movement toward post-harvest treatment to control illness
In recent years the shellfish industry has suffered from outbreaks of food poisoning linked to a naturally
occurring bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp). The industry continues to work with the FDA to improve
the safety of our products, however the FDA is mandating additional Vp control methods and is threatening to
require post-harvest treatment (PHT) of all shellfish. PHT kills the shellfish as well as the bacteria, eliminating
the competitive advantage we now have over foreign imports. Last year warnings by the FDA hurt growers who were
selling shellfish that was uncontaminated.
Support the current Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) efforts to guide shellfish
safety standards and oppose FDA actions that might lead to a national requirement for PHT. The FDA should work
closely with the ISSC before issuing advisory warnings.
Restore funding support for the only USDA ARS lab doing Vibrio research.
Issue: Funding for critical NOAA and USDA aquaculture programs
- The NOAA Marine Aquaculture Initiative was originally funded at $5M in 2000, but funding in
subsequent years dwindled and needs to be restored to at least the initial funding level. This program
supports U.S. aquaculture in general, and our shellfish community has been successful in using this funding
source to tackle issues key to our industry.
- The NOAA Fisheries Milford Laboratory in Connecticut has a 75-year history of providing unique R&D,
extension, and public outreach activities supporting the US shellfish aquaculture industry. The staff of
approximately 50 research and support personnel provides valuable assistance to commercial hatcheries and growers.
Funding for the Milford Laboratory is again threatened.
- The Microbial Safety of Aquaculture Products Center of Excellence in Delaware does important work to
insure that the shellfish we produce are safe to eat. Their work includes studies on noroviruses, hepatitis,
and Vibrio, all of which can cause human health problems. Their funding is also in jeopardy.
Support funding the NOAA Marine Aquaculture Initiative at a minimum of $5M annually.
Support funding of the Milford Laboratory either through appropriations for the NOAA/NMFS Northeast Fisheries
Science Center or through an earmark. Support funding of the Microbial Safety lab at Delaware State University,
part of the USDA, ARS Eastern Regional Food Safety Research Unit.
Issue: Crop insurance
Land-based agriculture in the U.S. is covered against unusual losses due to pestilence, disease and weather.
However, crop insurance for shellfish farmers is not available at realistic rates from private insurers.
A government-backed crop insurance program for shellfish farmers would provide help in times of catastrophic
loss and make investment in this industry more attractive. Recently the Gulf Coast shellfish industry, in
conjunction with a private contractor, developed a model crop insurance program and that plan has been presented
to USDA's Risk Management Agency. We stand ready to assist the USDA Risk Management Agency develop a program that
meets the needs of the shellfish industry.
The Risk Management Agency should be encouraged to work with the shellfish industry to develop a workable
and affordable crop insurance program.
The East Coast Shellfish Research Institute was formed to increase public awareness of shellfish aquaculture
activities through research, education and outreach and to channel funding from government agencies, private
foundations and corporate giving programs to regional research institutions for targeted research. Current
priorities include studies on: the environmental benefits of shellfish culture, the effects of shell planting,
impacts of bottom cultivation, Vp detection methods and marketing research.
ECSRI is working to identify funding sources for our research priorities. The targeted research areas require
about $750K in funding. This support could come from an earmark, or from support through existing mechanisms
such as the NOAA/NMFS Milford Laboratory.