Report: Aquaculture in California has promising future
In a joint press conference on Tuesday, 27 September, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Sea Grant, and the Aquarium of the Pacific discussed a report they jointly authored that explores the possibilities for aquaculture in Southern California.
The report is the result of two workshops hosted by the group earlier this year and in 2015. Participants in the workshop included scientists, regulators and industry practitioners with proven expertise in the field of aquaculture and environmental science.
“Here in California, we have the oceanographic conditions, proximity to markets, and scientific expertise necessary to support environmentally responsible aquaculture,” Aquarium of the Pacific President and CEO Jerry Schubel said. “With our planet’s growing human population and rising demand for food, aquaculture will play a pivotal role in increasing the safe supply of healthy protein in our global food systems, and California could serve as a model for states looking to develop a robust aquaculture industry.”
The report offers recommendations for growth and expansion of marine aquaculture in the U.S. and idea for improving the complex permitting system for aquaculture activities currently in place in California.
“Permitting remains an uncertain, uncoordinated, unstable, and inconsistent process for offshore farms in California,” the report said. “
The report also studies the proposal for a finfish farming operation currently in the permitting process dubbed the “Rose Canyon Fisheries Project. “ If approved, the commercial demonstration project – a partnership between Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and Cuna del Mar, a private equity fund for marine aquaculture development – would eventually produce 5,000 metric tons of yellowtail jack, white seabass and striped bass in sea cages located in U.S. federal waters about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) from San Diego, California.
Currently, California law prohibits offshore finfish aquaculture in state waters until regulations can be established governing the activity; however, the state does have several shellfish farms.
In spite of California’s strong environmental regulations, resistance to aquaculture remains among some Californians who worry about its potential environmental impact, the report said. It calls for continued research and public outreach to address those concerns. It also explores methods for building regulatory confidence in understanding and applying best available science and incorporating appropriate tools that can inform decision-making.
Establishing a robust aquaculture industry in the United States would help cut the more than 90 percent of seafood imported into this country annually and reduce a seafood trade deficit exceeding USD 14 billion (EUR 12.49 billion), the group who created the report said.
“These workshops provided an unprecedented look into all of the possible environmental concerns of offshore aquaculture along the Southern California coast,” James Morris, an ecologist with NOAA's National Center for Coastal Ocean Science, said. “We are confident that aquaculture can be sited sustainably in the coastal ocean. The science is sound on this. Our challenge is putting the science to action to identify environmentally suitable locations that avoid conflicts with other users.”