Michigan Sea Grant begins integrated assessment on Michigan’s aquaculture industry

Even with the state’s tremendous water resources, Michigan’s aquaculture growth has not followed global trends. An industry-wide assessment is underway to move Michigan’s aquaculture forward to satisfy consumer demands for safe and sustainable seafood.

Michigan Sea Grant’s history of working with Michigan’s aquaculture industry includes a partnership with the Michigan Aquaculture Association in drafting the Michigan Aquaculture Development Act of 1996. The Act recognized Michigan aquaculture as agriculture and gave the Michigan Department of Agriculture (now the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) more responsibility in the area of aquaculture. The Act was written with the goal of increasing aquaculture development in Michigan because of the state’s tremendous water resources. Even with the Act, Michigan aquaculture growth has remained stagnant and has not followed growth trends experienced at the global level.

Michigan Sea Grant recently funded an integrated assessment project that will examine the causes and consequences of the current underdeveloped aquaculture industry in Michigan—specifically, production of seafood for human consumption. A comprehensive and thorough assessment of Michigan aquaculture will help the project team—along with potential and existing aquaculture practitioners, policy makers, the public and other interested stakeholders—understand the complex interactions between aquaculture industry growth, regulatory control, economics and stakeholder risks and benefits. Michigan Sea Grant has engaged a research team to lead this project and provide technical assistance, as needed. The team consists of experts from Michigan State University and Originz, LLC, a firm that specializes in helping companies and institutions in the food and agriculture sector create and deliver strategy solutions that satisfy consumer demands for healthier foods.

Within the integrated assessment, a needs assessment will be designed to determine the overall scope of the aquaculture issue in the state. Status, attributes and barriers facing Michigan’s aquaculture industry will be identified, as well as current and potential stakeholders. Using the data generated through the needs assessment, the research team will develop a strategic action plan, designed to expand Michigan’s current aquaculture activities into a sustainable seafood production industry. This strategic action plan can be used as a guide for future planning and implementation, and provide stakeholders with a better understanding of sustainable aquaculture and benefits associated with seafood.

To kick off this project, a Michigan Aquaculture - Scenario Planning Workshop was held in Tustin, Michigan in November. Over twenty organizations were represented at this workshop, as participants identified critical uncertainties that are important to aquaculture. These included capital, political will, water rights, ecosystem impacts, and social acceptance. A follow-up to this workshop will be held at the Michigan Aquaculture Association Annual Conference on January 24, 2013 at Kettunen Center near Tustin.

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