Director's Corner - February 2014
by Dr. Michael Rubino
- Improving Access to Sites for Marine Aquaculture
- Robust Science Supports Sustainable Aquaculture
- Supporting Research with Federal, Academic, and Private Sector Partners
- Improved Public Understanding of Aquaculture
- Looking Forward to 2014
Good afternoon! I hope that you all enjoyed the holiday season and made time to share with friends and family. Now that we’ve all settle back in to work, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the accomplishments of NOAA’s aquaculture program (which includes NOAA Fisheries, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), and Sea Grant) in 2013 and what we’re looking forward to in 2014.
As NOAA works to end overfishing, domestic marine aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important tool to create jobs and provide domestic seafood. In 2013, we worked to enable marine aquaculture in the U.S. by facilitating permit reviews, advancing aquaculture science, and transferring technologies from our labs to the private sector. NOAA and DOC’s 2011 Aquaculture Policies, the Technology Transfer Initiative, and the National Shellfish Initiative continue to be the drivers behind much of our effort to increase access to sites, advance the science of modern aquaculture, and improve public understanding of aquaculture’s important role.
In 2013, we worked with other NOAA offices, Army Corps of Engineers, industry, the restoration community, and state and tribal partners to improve access to sites for marine aquaculture. For example:
- Washington – We helped to facilitate approval of the state’s first federal shellfish permits in many years, and the Washington Shellfish Initiative led to an Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon panel report and new state funding for shellfish research. In spring/summer 2014, a new hatchery will open at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Manchester Lab that will establish a breeding program for native oyster restoration.
- California - We helped the state to organize a kickoff meeting for its Shellfish Initiative, working with agencies and stakeholders to identify key actions. Also, what could be the first shellfish farm in U.S. federal waters received the state’s approval as part of its ongoing permit review.
- New England - We are working on permitting and technology transfer for offshore mussel farming projects near Gloucester and Cape Cod, MA.
- Maryland - A new leasing program has led to over 50 new shellfish aquaculture leases.
- Hawaii - We worked with the State of Hawaii to reopen traditional fish ponds to aquaculture.
- Gulf of Mexico - The Gulf Council’s Fishery Management Plan for Aquaculture continues to move through the process. The proposed rule for the plan is now in agency review on its way to publication in the Federal Register. We will be seeking public comment on the proposed rule period prior to publishing the final rule.
The science branch of our program develops knowledge to support NOAA’s management responsibilities and supports innovation in marine aquaculture. In 2013 we developed and refined state-of-the-art tools to assess environmental effects of finfish farming. These include
- a technical memo on the environmental effects of finfish cage culture;
- environmental monitoring guidelines for fish farms in Hawaii; and
- the OMEGA model, which predicts the potential genetic effects of aquaculture escapes on wild populations.
We worked with the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force and NW states and tribes to implement monitoring protocols in response to an unconfirmed report of infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV) in Canada. The first year of surveillance did not result in any positive findings of ISAV in the Pacific NW.
Finally, we worked with USDA, FWS, and other agencies through the Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture (formerly the Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture or JSA) to develop a Federal Strategic Plan for Aquaculture Research. We incorporated extensive public comment received last summer and expect that the Administration will publish the plan this year.
The Aquaculture Program works with a variety of partners to advance aquaculture science and develop and transfer advanced technology:
- We are working with USDA and FDA of the use of taurine in aquafeeds.
- NOAA Fisheries scientists in Manchester, WA are working with industry partners to develop and transfer technology for sablefish culture.
- NCCOS developed environmentally-sustainable culture methods for red porgy and transferred that technology for commercial development.
- NOAA Fisheries scientists in Milford, CT continue to provide algae starter and probiotics research results to hatcheries around the country, training in algae culture, and research on bioextraction and ecosystem services of shellfish culture.
Several NOAA grant competitions to encourage development of sustainable marine aquaculture. Prior awards have contributed to the creation of algae farms in New England; a fishermen-operated Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture project in Portsmouth, NH; aquaculture training in Maine; the expansion of oyster farming in Maryland; and other increases in aquaculture production. In 2013, highlights of these competitions include
- Aquaculture as one of two topics in the 2013 Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) grants program. (Proposals currently are being reviewed);
- Sea Grant executed its Aquaculture Grant Program in 2013; details will be announced soon. (the 2014 competition is open until February 21)
- The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program almost $500k to two projects for feeds research.
One of our goals is to provide quality information to the public. The Aquaculture Program disseminated information through its new website, via social media and our newsletter, in stakeholder meetings, and by communicating with journalists. We developed pages for several aquaculture species on Fishwatch.gov to help consumers make informed seafood choices.
We created two of videos. One, entitled ‘Exploring U.S. Aquaculture’ gives an overview of domestic marine aquaculture. The other, ‘Marine Aquaculture: A promising Future’ examines how aquaculture is creating opportunities for commercial fishermen. We created a podcast, ‘Feeds of the Future,’ that discusses the evolution of aquaculture feeds. We also worked with Seaweb to produce an Aquaculture Webinar Series to discuss the science of sustainable marine aquaculture.
While the Aquaculture Program accomplished much in 2013, we continue to work with our partners to advance environmentally-responsible domestic aquaculture. Some specific objectives include:
- publish regulations to implement the Gulf of Mexico Aquaculture FMP
- complete the new oyster restoration hatchery at the Manchester lab
- refine a permitting process for mussel farming in New England, including developing tools to better understand entanglement risks for marine mammals and turtles
- streamline permitting for shellfish aquaculture
- using GIS mapping techniques and simulation models to identify sites and predict environmental interactions
- publish reports on marine aquaculture economic impacts
- publish, with our partners in the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, Best Management Practices (BMPs) for fish farms in the Caribbean
- implement the seven aquaculture-related directives in the President’s National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan
Thank you, as always, for your interest and support. Have a healthy and prosperous 2014!