Offshore Aquaculture Policy Study (1999-2001)

In late 1999, the Center began an 18-month collaborative effort to develop a policy framework for governing marine aquaculture in federal waters off the U.S. coast. The offshore area of the ocean is considered to have significant potential for the future development of the marine aquaculture industry, but the absence of a well-delineated governing process has been cited as a major obstacle. U.S. coastal states have jurisdiction over the nearshore areas (out to 3 nautical miles for most states), with federal jurisdiction extending to the 200-mile limit of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). With funding from the Sea Grant Technology Program, principal investigators Biliana Cicin-Sain and Robert W. Knecht, working with Susan Bunsick at the Center, assembled a multi-disciplinary project team and established a project advisory committee to provide a range of views on this emerging public policy area.

In addition to the Center staff, the project team includes: Dr. Robert W. Rheault, Moonstone Oysters and President of the Ocean State Aquaculture Association; Richard DeVoe, Executive Director, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Research, University of South Carolina; Dr. Harlyn O. Halvorson, Director of the Policy Center for Marine Bioscience and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Tim Eichenberg, Legal Consultant; and John Ewart, Delaware Aquaculture Resource Center.

The project advisory committee includes representatives of the aquaculture and commercial fishing industries, environmental groups, federal and state agencies, congressional committees, and international organizations: Tom Ellis, National Association of State Aquaculture Coordinators; John Corbin, Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture; Charles Chesnutt, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Jean Flemma, House Resources Committee; Rebecca Goldburg, Environmental Defense; Betsy Hart, National Aquaculture Association; Roger McManus, Center for Marine Conservation; Luke Nachbar, Office of Senator Gregg (New Hampshire); Pietro Parravano, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations; Jeff Peterson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Dave Redlin, Office of Senator Roth (Delaware); Ed Rhodes, National Marine Fisheries Service; Louise Scura, World Bank; Margaret Spring, Senate Commerce Committee; Boyce Thorne-Miller, SeaWeb; and Ken Turgeon, Minerals Management Service.

The research effort encompassed a literature review of previous studies and international guidelines relating to marine aquaculture policy, the preparation of case studies on offshore projects in the United States, and reviews of existing policies governing marine aquaculture in U.S. coastal states and eight other nations (Norway, United Kingdom/Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan). Research on U.S. coastal states included a survey of state aquaculture coordinators in 23 coastal states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The project team held two working meetings in Delaware and two meetings with the advisory committee in Washington, D.C. In December 1999, the team met to organize the project and agree on a research plan. In February 2000, the team met with its advisory committee to obtain input on the overall direction of the research. In June 2000, the team met to review the results of the research and formulate a set of policy recommendations. A draft report and set of policy recommendations was distributed to the advisory committee for comment in August 2000 and discussed in a meeting with the advisory committee in September 2000. A final report and set of policy recommendations was completed in late 2000.

Development of a Policy Framework for Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the 3-200 Mile U.S. Ocean Zone (July 2001)

Efforts to inform a broader audience about the results of this work, include: In June 2000, Prof. Biliana Cicin-Sain briefed the Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture (the coordinating group for aquaculture in the federal government) on the status of the project. In December 2000, she presented the policy recommendations at a forum she organized in Washington, D.C. for the Council on Environmental Quality and the Center for Marine Conservation. In January 2001, Susan Bunsick presented a paper on the project at the World Aquaculture Society conference in Orlando, Florida.

Developing Operational Guidelines for the Offshore Aquaculture Policy Framework (2001-2003)

The Center has been awarded additional funding to continue its pioneering work on the development of recommendations for national policy for the offshore marine aquaculture industry in the United States. A multi-institutional, interdisciplinary team, under the direction of Center Director and Principal Investigator Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, is developing operational guidelines for a policy framework developed in the Center's initial study, Development of a Policy Framework for Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the 3-200 Mile U.S. Ocean Zone (2001). The National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is funding the 2-year research effort under its National Marine Aquaculture Initiative.

The focus of the study is the area of the ocean 3-200 miles offshore, from the limits of coastal state jurisdiction to the 200-mile limit of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Improvements in technology are creating new opportunities for the expansion of open ocean aquaculture in this area; however, there is no explicit federal regulatory framework addressing the siting and operation of offshore marine aquaculture facilities, and important issues such as environmental impacts, public trust questions, and impacts on other ocean users. The project team is developing operational guidelines for implementation of the policy framework for offshore aquaculture in consultation with federal agencies, coastal states, and stakeholder groups, and then testing and tailoring the operational framework in three regions currently involved in offshore aquaculture: New England, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific coast and island region.

The project includes the following milestones:
  • Development of draft operational guidelines (Summer 2002)
  • A national workshop in Washington, D.C. with the project team, federal agencies with regulatory roles in aquaculture, congressional staff, and other relevant interests, to discuss the draft framework (September 2002)
  • Regional meetings in New England, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific to discuss the draft operational framework with regional stakeholders (September/October 2002)
  • Development of a revised operational framework, based on the feedback received at the regional meetings (April 2003)
The final operational framework will be formally presented to Congress, federal agencies and interested parties at the end of the two-year project.


Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy
301 Robinson Hall, University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716 USA
Phone: 1-302-831-8086; Fax: 1-302-831-3668
E-mail: bcs@udel.edu
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