RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Amended changes to a marine aquaculture bill were unanimously approved in the Senate on Wednesday, meaning that a growing ocean-based business may soon have a bigger impact on the North Carolina coast.
Senate Bill 410, the Marine Aquaculture Development Act, was sponsored by Sen. Bill Cook (R-District 1), Sen. Norman W. Sanderson (R-District 2) and Sen. Jerry W. Tillman (R-District 29). The bill will next be sent to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Marine aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production methods in the world, and SB 410 is designed to attract global seafood companies to the state, according to a Thursday afternoon news release.
In October 2015, Wilmington hosted the annual BioMarine International Business Convention. It was the first time the convention was held in the United States.
Approximately 300 business executives, researchers, entrepreneurs, and economic development officials from more than 16 countries attended the event.
"With a large abundant natural water resource along our state's coastline, North Carolina is a prime location for deepwater aquaculture facilities," Cook said. "Aquaculture is, indeed, among one of the fastest growing segments of food production worldwide, and with this bill, North Carolina will be appropriately positioned to join the market."
Nearly one-half of all fish consumed globally are harvested from aquaculture facilities, according to the release, and by 2030 over 145.5 million metric tons of aquatic food will be needed to meet global demand.
The bill includes the following provisions, but is not limited to:
- Authorize the Secretary of Environmental Quality to grant marine aquaculture leases.
The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would also:
- Request the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils develop a fishery management plan for regulating offshore aquaculture in federal waters offshore from the North Carolina coast.
- Petition the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to initiate rule making proceedings to implement a comprehensive regulatory program for managing the development of an environmentally sound and economically sustainable aquaculture fishery in federal waters offshore from the North Carolina coast.
- Direct the DMF to provide an interim report to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources regarding their progress in implementing the marine aquaculture permits.
- Direct the Marine Fisheries Commission to establish official e-mail accounts for all commission members. Use of the official e-mail accounts would be considered public records unless protected by any common law or statutory privilege. Failure to comply with these requirements would subject a member to investigation by the State Ethics Commission for unethical conduct and to removal from the commission for misfeasance. This provision is in response to a state audit report.
- Provide relief for eels imported from Virginia or South Carolina in an aquaculture operation from onerous regulations.
- Authorize DEQ and the State Property Office to negotiate with our federal partners in regards to an agreement for acquiring dredged material easement sites. This approach is currently used in South Carolina, where they have an agreement in place between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.