Photo courtesy of Theresa Talley

Readying Southern California for a Growing Aquaculture Industry:

Designing and launching a community college aquaculture workforce development program
Clare Leschin-Hoar

MiraCosta College students cultivating an interest in seaweeds, bivalves or fish farming will soon be able to get their hands wet learning skills and exploring potential careers in the region’s emerging aquaculture industry thanks to a $320,000 grant from NOAA Sea Grant awarded this month.  

Researchers from California Sea Grant will team up with the college to design and offer students comprehensive training. Starting September 2024, the program is intended to support the growing demand for skilled aquaculture and related jobs in the region.

Southern California is one of only two U.S. locations currently designated by NOAA as an Aquaculture Opportunity Area. San Diego County itself is already home to six registered aquaculture businesses, two aquaculture biotechnology businesses, a thriving backyard aquaponics industry, two public aquarium attractions and three major marine institutes — all of which rely on workers with aquaculture-related knowledge and skills. That number is expected to grow.

“There’s already some demand for aquaculture-related jobs, but limited availability of trainers has been a challenge,” says Theresa Talley, a California Sea Grant extension specialist. “That gap, along with the very real expectation of future jobs within the aquaculture industry, is getting noticed by community college workforce development programs such as the one at MiraCosta College.”

Like other regions, Southern California’s aquaculture industry will depend on workers who have had training in aquaculture science, policy and sustainability; and aquaculture practice, including farm and gear competency, safety, seamanship, business and marketing, among other topics.

“MiraCosta’s new applied aquaculture program will include technical and hands-on experience, including a required internship in sustainable land- and water-based food production,” says Linda Kurokawa, executive director of Community Education & Workforce Development, Technology Career Institute at MiraCosta College. “Students will have an opportunity to complete the rigorous hands-on program in just one semester or less.”

“All students tend to thrive in an environment where they feel the programs relate to a specific skill and are linked directly to local companies that are hiring,” she adds. 

The aquaculture training pilot program is expected to launch next fall and will offer students approximately 400 to 600 hours of classroom learning and hands-on training.

“The location, talented faculty, focus on career development and diverse student body make MiraCosta an ideal place to develop and host an aquaculture workforce development program for the San Diego region,” says Talley. “The program can then be used as a model for aquaculture job training elsewhere in the future.”  


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Sea Grant’s aquaculture portfolio includes a broad range of research and technical assistance efforts to inform the U.S. Great Lakes, coastal and marine aquaculture, including knowledge exchange hubs, technical research, social science and resources for new business owners. The FY2023 Aquaculture Workforce Development Support Projects competition was open to all Sea Grant programs. California Sea Grant’s Community College Aquaculture Workforce Development Program was one of seven projects that will receive a portion of $2.4 million in funding.


About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Headquartered at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, California Sea Grant is one of 34 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.