Southern California designated as an ‘Aquaculture Opportunity Area’

NOAA Fisheries plans to have 10 such designated areas in place by 2025.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA—The first-ever Aquaculture Opportunity Areas have been announced, with Southern California one of two locations designated for this federal project aiming to study and develop sustainable aquaculture operations.

NOAA Fisheries announced the first two Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in late August. In all there are 10 such areas planned in federal waters. All 10 opportunities areas are planned to be operational by 2025.

The Gulf of Mexico was the other region named as an Aquaculture Opportunity Area, according to NOAA Fisheries.

“These two regions were selected for future aquaculture opportunity area locations based on the already available spatial analysis data and current industry interest in developing sustainable aquaculture operations in the region,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement.

Chris Oliver, the assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said the Aquaculture Opportunity Areas would complement U.S.’s wild capture fisheries.

“The creation of Aquaculture Opportunity Areas will foster the U.S. aquaculture industry as a needed complement to our wild capture fisheries. This type of proactive work creates opportunities for aquaculture farmers and maintains our commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Pres. Donald J. Trump established Aquaculture Opportunity Areas as part of his Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth. The Executive Order was signed on May 7.

“They are defined as geographic areas that have been evaluated for their potential for sustainable commercial aquaculture,” NOAA Fisheries staff said. “Selected areas are expected to support multiple aquaculture farm sites of varying types including finfish, shellfish, seaweed, or some combination of these farm types.

“To identify each area, NOAA will use scientific analysis and public engagement to highlight spaces that are environmentally, socially, and economically appropriate for commercial aquaculture,” NOAA Fisheries staff continued.

The Southern California opportunity area will be allowed to accommodate three to five commercial aquaculture operations.

“There is no predetermined size for an Aquaculture Opportunity Area,” according to NOAA Fisheries staff. “The size and shape of operations in each area will be determined as part of the Aquaculture Opportunity Area identification process. During this process, NOAA will work with federal and state partners, tribes, and interested stakeholders to determine the appropriate size of each.”

NOAA Fisheries will look at the types of species likely to be cultivated, maximum annual farm production, maximum configuration of operations and monitoring considerations to determine the size and shape of each operations.

Federal officials hope to ramp up aquaculture operations in the United States, in attempt to increase seafood supply.

“Seafood farming, if done responsibly—as it is in the United States—is increasingly recognized as one of the most environmentally sustainable ways to produce food and protein,” NOAA Fisheries staff said. “Aquaculture Opportunity Areas and an expanded domestic aquaculture industry is critical for the economic and environmental resiliency of our coastal communities, and national food security.”

Two new opportunity areas will be announced each year until 2025, when the 10 planned zones are expected to be designated.

No timeline was given as to when specific commercial operations would be identified. The portion of the Southern California coast where the opportunity areas would be implemented was also not announced.

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