I am pleased to be able to approve enrolled bill S. 1650, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980.
Almost 2 years ago, I reluctantly disapproved an aquaculture bill that authorized major new Government financial programs without, in my opinion, an adequate demonstration of need. In my memorandum of disapproval of the 1978 bill and in separate correspondence with several Members of Congress, I promised to work with Congress to strengthen Federal aquaculture programs and to fashion aquaculture legislation which I could approve.
Since that time, we have established highly effective mechanisms for interagency coordination and joint endeavors, and we will soon publish the first phase of a national aquaculture plan that has been developed in close cooperation with the aquaculture industry. We have also initiated studies designed to provide solid information on the financial and regulatory barriers to the expansion of commercial aquaculture in this country.
I am most pleased that the bill I am signing here today formalizes the interagency coordinating mechanism which is working so well and calls for the formulation of a long-range national aquaculture plan. It also requires the development of strategies to meet the recommendations of the studies on financial and regulatory constraints. Perhaps most important, S. 1650 authorizes funds for the support of research, development, and technology transfer by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior.
Although commercial aquaculture development is clearly the responsibility of the private sector, the Federal Government has a role in conducting and supporting research and in establishing, through a national plan, a framework for cooperation between Government and the public sector.
The Government also has a strong interest in developing new sources of food for this country and for the poorer nations of the world. Many developing countries have already recognized the potential benefits of aquaculture. In China, for example, where fish is a staple, aquaculture accounts for a major portion of the seafood consumed. Here at home, an expanded aquaculture industry can help overcome a trade imbalance caused by the importation of some $2 billion of seafood each year. Since only 3 percent of our current domestic seafood supplied are produced through aquaculture, there is considerable potential for expansion. I believe that this legislation will greatly benefit the many farmers of this country, who will be encouraged to grow fresh-water fish in their lakes and ponds. At the same time, commercial fishermen will see larger stocks of wild fish as a result of increased commercial aquaculture.
In signing this bill into law, I wish to thank leading Members of the Congress, particularly Senators Magnuson, Inouye, Stone, Cannon, Cochran, Bentsen, Pryor, Stewart, and Talmadge and Representatives Foley, Murphy, Breaux, de la Garza, Forsythe, and AuCoin, for working with us on this important legislation.
I would also like to make note of the contribution of Dave Wallace. Until his death last year, he was Director of International Fisheries in the Department of Commerce and longstanding advocate and tireless worker for an expanded United States aquaculture program. His leadership, wisdom, patience, and skill were the driving forces behind the coordinated effort to strengthen Federal aquaculture programs. I wish to acknowledge his dedication and perseverance and dedicate this act to his memory.