Despite strong interests in developing offshore finfish aquaculture in California, no offshore farms exist. Development of an offshore finfish industry has been slowed by concerns related to potential environmental impacts, yet it has been difficult to define and address the real impacts of finfish aquaculture given the lack of farms in the state. To address the potential impacts and move forward in developing an aquaculture industry, the state needs better information about the actual impacts—both positive and negative—of specific farming practices in similar locations.
This project will assess the impact of a tuna ranch just south of the US-Mexico border on wild seabirds and nearby island ecosystems. Seabird nesting critically links marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and is therefore a useful marker for potential ecosystem impacts of offshore finfish farms. The researchers will conduct seabird surveys and use isotope analysis of modern and historic plant and animal tissues to explore how the tuna ranch has affected coastal ecosystems of the Coronado Islands. These data will be compared to a nearby site lacking significant densities of nesting seabirds - Cabrillo National Monument.
The researchers will use these data to update a hotspots map that identifies the best locations for siting potential finfish farms off the coast of Southern California. Project results will be shared through focused stakeholder workshops, and a public lecture series hosted by Aquarium of the Pacific and livestreamed online.