Biotechnology companies are developing transgenic fish, shellfish, and microorganisms to supplement conventional marine aquaculture and aid in the bioremediation of polluted coastal waters. These products may be ready for open-environment field trials or commercial applications within two to four years. Regulatory authority in the field of marine biotechnology is poorly defined and ill prepared, however, and the science base presently available is not adequate to support credible ecological risk assessment of genetically engineered marine organisms.
In response, I offer two specific public policy recommendations: (1) an accelerated program of basic and applied research in marine ecology underwritten by a combination of government and private funds, and (2) the creation of a dedicated unit within the National Marine Fisheries Service responsible for regulatory oversight of transgenic marine organisms. If implemented, these reforms will encourage development in the marine biotechnology industry while laying the groundwork for appropriate ecological risk assessment and management.