Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Improving Regulatory Efficiency

August 4, 2015

We continue to work to improve regulatory efficiency for U.S. marine aquaculture, on both regional and national levels. Working with our partners, we’ve made progress on a number of fronts this year.

Gulf Aquaculture Plan

The Proposed Rule to implement the Fishery Management Plan for Regulating Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf Aquaculture Plan) was published for public comment in August of 2014. NOAA is currently working on the Final Rule. The Final Rule will likely publish later this year. For more information on the Gulf Aquaculture Plan and the Proposed Rule, visit the website.

Coordinating Federal Permitting for Offshore Aquaculture

The Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture (IWG-A)’s Regulatory Task Force works to increase efficiency in regulation and permitting of aquaculture by coordinating efforts and processes between federal agencies. In preparation of the Final Rule for the Gulf Aquaculture Plan, the Task Force has been working to create a coordinated federal permitting framework for offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico. This work includes drafting guidance for interested farmers, and combining agency processes when possible.

In anticipation of the Final Rule’s publication, the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee’s (MAFAC)’s Aquaculture Task Force is developing a mock permit application of a representative, commercial aquaculture project in the Gulf of Mexico. The mock project will provide sufficient detail for it to be used to test the coordinated permitting framework.

Additionally, the IWG-A Regulatory Task Force is working with the Office of Aquaculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to create an online Finfish Portal, which will contain regulatory and scientific information for coastal managers, decision-makers, farmers, and the public on finfish farming in the United States.

Bolstering our Nation’s Shellfish Populations

In 2011 NOAA started the National Shellfish Initiative with industry and NGO partners to increase populations of bivalve shellfish in our nation’s coastal waters. Shortly after, Washington became the first state to implement the initiative with the Washington Shellfish Initiative (WSI). Highlights from the WSI over the last year include: the formation of a Shellfish Interagency Permit Team to assist shellfish growers in navigating the permit process, the construction and operation of a new shellfish hatchery at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in partnership with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, and the creation of the Washington Ocean Acidification Center and Marine Resources Advisory Council. In April of 2015, NOAA’s Office of Aquaculture and Washington Sea Grant funded the Geoduck Special Issue in the Journal of Shellfish Research, to disseminate recent scientific studies on this high-value fishery and aquaculture product. For more information, contact Laura Hoberecht, NOAA Aquaculture Northwest Regional Coordinator, at

NOAA has been working with partners in the Pacific Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA) to expand National Shellfish Initiative implementation efforts in California with the development of the California State Shellfish Initiative (CSI). The ultimate goal is to increase permitting efficiency and decrease permitting costs for agencies and applicants, while maintaining strict compliance with environmental regulations. A CSI Working Group has been formed and completed the first stage of these efforts by releasing the Principles of Agreement, and is initiating the launch of a technical team which will address specific shellfish aquaculture projects or environmental issues associated with shellfish permitting. Contact Diane Windham, NOAA Aquaculture California Regional Coordinator, at for more information.

Shellfish initiatives are not limited to the West Coast. The Connecticut Shellfish Initiative has been in progress since 2013. Facilitated by NOAA and University of Connecticut’s Sea Grant, the initiative has begun to draft a Shellfish Vision Plan, drawing on expert, stakeholder and public input. The initiative’s Steering Committee will continue to work on the plan throughout the year. You can find the outline for the plan, and more information on the Connecticut Shellfish Initiative, here. Contact for more information.

Although the National and State Shellfish Initiatives are not regulatory initiatives, they share in common the goal to expand opportunities for shellfish farming and restoration.

Explore more:

Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) Shellfish Portal
Aquaculture Policy & Regulation