National report identifies regulatory barriers to expanding shellfish aquaculture

Caitlin Coomber

A report funded by the National Sea Grant College Program identifies potential solutions to barriers impacting shellfish aquaculture operations at a local, state and federal level.

“Legal and permitting issues are consistently ranked as a critical impediment to domestic aquaculture development,” says Stephanie Otts, director of the National Sea Grant Law Center. “Through the release of this report and accompanying case studies, we hope to raise awareness of these common challenges and equip aquaculture industry professionals with the necessary knowledge to prepare for regulatory obstacles.”

The National Sea Grant Law Center, with attorneys in the Georgia, Rhode Island, Virginia and California Sea Grant programs developed eight case studies that describe regulatory hurdles in each state. The California case study focuses on shellfish aquaculture in federal waters of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the coastal area where the federal government has jurisdiction over natural resources.

Historically, commercial marine aquaculture in federal waters has been limited by an ambiguous and sometimes lengthy regulatory process and the technical challenges of operating in an offshore environment. However, the California aquaculture industry continues to explore the potential to grow and harvest molluscan shellfish. The case study provides background information on the permitting process for molluscan shellfish aquaculture in federal waters of the EEZ and an in-depth look at an important aspect of operations—compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program—using Catalina Sea Ranch, the first aquaculture facility in federal waters off the West Coast, as an example.

“To grow domestic seafood production and contribute to coastal economies, there needs to be a standardized pathway to comply with federal and state sanitation requirements,” said Lisa Schiavinato, California Sea Grant extension director. “For shellfish growers and investors considering operating in federal waters, understanding the requirements for safe and sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption is vital.”

The case study also notes the potential value of long-term authorization of marine aquaculture in the EEZ to promote regulatory certainty and assurance needed to secure business and financial investments.

The project team will present the full report along with the case studies in March 2019 during Aquaculture America and the National Shellfisheries Association annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Results will also be shared with the Sea Grant Network through a series of webinars this summer.

Download the California case study

Download the full report