View a powerpoint presentation,
"Offshore Aquaculture: Permitting and Legal Considerations."

Offshore Aquaculture Initiatives

Much attention has been focused of late on the potential for aquaculture in the federal waters outside of state jurisdiction, from three to 200 miles offshore. Proponents view these waters as potential culture sites because user conflicts are minimized and environmental concerns are reduced. The industry has greeted these initiatives with a certain amount of skepticism because of questions pertaining to the economic and technical viability of operations in these waters.

Environmental groups have been vocal opponents of any offshore leasing because they oppose the culture of carnivorous fish. Unfortunately, their opposition has stymied attempts to create a permitting and leasing regulatory framework that would grant farmers legal tenure. In the absence of such a legal framework it is unlikely that a shellfish industry could be established.

The ECSGA is on record supporting the various versions of the Offshore Aquaculture Act because we believe there is tremendous potential for mussel culture offshore. If enacted, most of the leasing and regulatory authority would go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which would receive a substantial increase in funding to support all aquaculture research.

Executive Director Bob Rheault has participated in many panels and workshops on the subject. You can view a powerpoint presentation on Offshore Aquaculture: Permitting and Legal Considerations, which he presented at a "Fisheries and the Bench" workshop at Roger Williams University, on May 19, 2009.

In 2008 NOAA held a workshop on the Economics of Offshore Aquaculture. Several excellent papers from that workshop can be found at

In the summer of 2007 NOAA held a Marine Aquaculture Summit designed to build momentum for the Offshore Aquaculture Act that was introduced and backed by Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez and the Bush Administration. The Act was opposed fiercely by Environmental NGOs and never came to a vote.

From 2001-2005 Rheault participated in a two-phase project funded by the University of Delaware Sea Grant to draft a regulatory framework for aquaculture in the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Those recommendations can be found at

In 2003 NOAA adopted a Code of Conduct for Responsible Aquaculture Development in the EEZ. The Code contains recommendations on siting and operations that are variously referred to as "soft regulations" or "voluntary." It covers such subjects as the disposal of wastes or mortalities; and the use of therapeutics, non-native species or feeds containing fish meal. This Code was adopted when the US adopted the FAO Code for Responsible Fisheries.

For more information, visit NOAA's aquaculture website