Strategic Permitting to Increase Shellfish Farming in So. California
The Ventura Shellfish Enterprise (VSE) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to permit and manage a commercial bivalve shellfish aquaculture operation consistent with this objective. Globally, bivalve shellfish culture is technically proven as a method for the production of high value seafood with limited environmental impacts. However, the permitting process in California for such production is uncertain and not adequately developed to attract participation. VSE seeks to address several regulatory and planning challenges that create impediments to the expansion of a domestic marine shellfish culture industry in California.
As a member of VSE, the Ventura Port District (VPD) will hold all entitlements for a group of offshore aquaculture leases that will in turn be subleased to individual producer-fishermen for shellfish farming. These sublease opportunities will be marketed to both existing VPD commercial fishermen, commercial shellfish businesses, and startups who, in the absence of a pre-permitting structure, would be disinclined to embark on the required regulatory pathway. In return, and as a requirement of their tenancy, sub-lessees will agree to operate under robust environmental monitoring guidelines and best management practices adopted from third party certification agencies. The economic value of shellfish landed at existing harbor facilities will both directly and indirectly benefit VPD, and thereby work to invigorate its working waterfront community. This novel approach will bring an economy of scale to not only the regulatory barriers, but to aspects of ongoing environmental monitoring, marketing and distribution, turning traditionally cumbersome aspects of shellfish business management into opportunities for growth.
Development of education and research, retail entrepreneurship, and community engagement with comprehensive environmental planning are all realistic ancillary benefits of this initiative.