ARS research helps catfish producers, like these in Mississippi, improve fish quality and quantity. Photo by Stephen Ausmus.
ARS research helps catfish producers, like these in Mississippi, improve fish quality and quantity.

USDA agency-led group profiles U.S. aquaculture for world report

Aquaculture has tremendous potential to provide healthy protein sources to a growing global population.

Charting a course ahead for the conservation and sustainable farming of freshwater and marine species is a chief focus of the first "State of the World's Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture." The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) report will contain smaller subsections from 89 contributing countries, including the U.S.

This summer, Caird Rexroad, national program leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), submitted a final draft of the U.S. subsection of the FAO report. This culminated the year-long efforts of an interagency team of experts to identify and help catalogue genetic resources for some of the most recognized and used aquatic species. These experts came from ARS, USDA's National Institute for Food & Agriculture, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the Fish & Wildlife Service, the Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of State and the National Aquaculture Assn.

Rexroad was appointed to lead the team in the spring of 2016 to represent the U.S. government's efforts on the "State of the World" report. The team's U.S. Country Report subsection profiles trends, industry practices and issues affecting U.S. aquaculture, which ranks 14th worldwide and annually produces 608 million lb. of fishery products worth $1.3 billion.

The "State of the World" report seeks to:

* Create tools to improve the conservation, sustainable use and development of aquatic genetic resources;

* Identify information gaps and threats to effectively managing them;

* Inform the development of national policies, legislation, research, education and training;

* Raise greater public awareness about the importance of aquatic genetic resources for food and agriculture, and

* Complement other national or regional reporting activities.

Aquaculture has tremendous potential to provide healthy protein sources to a growing global population, according to Rexroad. The U.S. has the natural resources and agricultural know-how — including genetic improvement technologies — to help make this happen, he added.

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