New report identifies next steps for offshore aquaculture in Southern California

Coastal net pens off the coast of Maine.  Credit: NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
A joint effort of NOAA, California Sea Grant, and the Aquarium of the Pacific, the report provides recommendations for the growth and expansion of offshore marine aquaculture in Southern California
September 27, 2016
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A new report released today provides recommendations for the growth and expansion of offshore marine aquaculture in Southern California.

These include developing a working group for agencies involved in California aquaculture permitting to streamline regulatory decisions. The report also calls for increased public educational outreach on aquaculture science and regulation, and additional research on priority issues such as aquaculture interactions with protected species and marine debris.

The report – issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Sea Grant, and the Aquarium of the Pacific – is the result of two workshops convened in 2015 and 2016. The workshops brought together state and federal regulators, industry practitioners and scientists to discuss the best science and tools available to inform permitting decisions for marine aquaculture in California. Funding for the workshops was provided by NOAA Sea Grant, through a grant to California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Paul Olin.

“Right now, our ability to meet America’s demand for seafood falls far short of demand,” says Olin, referring to a seafood trade deficit of more than $14 billion, with more than 90 percent of U.S. seafood supply coming from abroad. “When our seafood comes from American waters, it’s fresher, it helps local economies, and our businesses follow some of the highest environmental standards in the world.”

Olin says the workshops were convened in response to interest from federal lawmakers in expanding domestic aquaculture and a move by the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service to adopt its first rules for finfish farming in federal waters in January 2016, for the Gulf of Mexico region.

California waters may follow suit, and a proposal has already been submitted for the Rose Canyon Fisheries offshore finfish aquaculture project at a site 4.5 miles off of San Diego’s coast. The project would culture California yellowtail jack and potentially white seabass or striped bass in offshore net pens or cages. Accordingly, workshop participants used the Rose Canyon project as a case study to demonstrate the modeling tools and results presented at both workshops.

Olin hopes the report and recommendations therein will help provide a science-based rationale for development of an environmentally acceptable marine finfish aquaculture industry in Southern California.

The full report is available at www.aquariumofpacific.org/aquaculturereport

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.