Coastal Conservation Association has historically taken a cautious approach to marine aquaculture in federal waters. However, the potential to reduce commercial pressure on wild stocks of fish and minimize the impact of destructive commercial fishing gear in the ocean environment while producing domestic seafood are compelling reasons to explore the opportunities. Continued development of comprehensive legislation and technological innovation could provide the appropriate legal and regulatory protections (environmental and others) for the permitting of commercial aquaculture facilities in the U.S. exclusive economic zone.
Technological developments and best industry practices must be pursued with great caution and oversight. History has shown that some commercial aquaculture efforts have produced negative environmental impacts, including effluent discharge, forage base depletion, and introduction of non-native species into already fragile ecosystems.
Ideally, a properly managed national aquaculture program could greatly reduce or eliminate destructive commercial fishing gear and associated bycatch from America’s marine waters while producing domestically raised seafood. CCA sees the potential opportunity in leveraging advances in science and technology, in combination with federal willingness to explore better ways to utilize and maximize aquaculture to produce seafood without negatively impacting the marine ecosystem or reducing angler access to healthy marine resources.
Commercial aquaculture operations in the U.S. exclusive economic zone cannot include:
- Species not native to the area under consideration for aquaculture activities;
- Utilization of a “capture culture” whereby wild fish are caught and held in pens until market conditions are favorable;
- Genetically modified species;
- Discharges of any sort from the aquaculture operation to receiving waters that have an adverse impact upon receiving waters;
- Reliance on wild-caught marine forage as aquaculture feed;
- Negative impacts to navigation, scenic resources, essential fish habitats, and all existing uses. Closed systems should be used to avoid interactions with aquatic systems;
- Prohibitions on recreational fishing in public waters adjacent to any private aquaculture installation. Aquaculture facilities should be cited to avoid stakeholder conflicts to the greatest extent possible.