The state of California is in the process of establishing a management framework for permitting and regulating open-ocean aquaculture. To assist in the planning process, this project seeks to model and evaluate the industry’s economic and environmental tradeoffs.
The team has modeled three offshore aquaculture development scenarios:
1) finfish in net pen cages, based on striped bass,
2) shellfish on longlines, based on Mediterranean mussels, and
3) kelp on longlines, based on sugar kelp.
The model will examine the effects of these on:
1) the California halibut fishery,
2) water quality and the seafloor environment, and
3) visual impact from operations that may be visible from the coast.
The team is running the finfish scenario in Aquamodel, a proprietary software model developed by colleagues at USC, and is exploring how to model disease dynamics so as to be able to evaluate the risk of disease transmission to wild fish. The final step of the project, which is currently underway, is to combine all of the model components to evaluate the tradeoffs from different spatial patterns of aquaculture development on the other uses and values in the marine environment. The project is based on a similar one, led by the UC Santa Barbara’s Sustainable Fisheries Group, in which the impacts of offshore energy were analyzed. The hoped for outcome of this project, scientists say, is to significantly reduce conflict over and impacts from fish farming and thereby increase its value and compatibility with other ocean uses.