Fishery Management Plan for Regulating Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico
The purpose of the Aquaculture FMP is to maximize benefits to the nation by establishing a regional permitting process to manage the development of an environmentally sound and ecologically sustainable aquaculture industry in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Aquaculture FMP authorizes NOAA Fisheries to issue permits to culture species managed by the Council (except shrimp and corals) and would allow an estimated 5 to 20 offshore aquaculture operations to be permitted in the Gulf over a 10-year period.
On February 8, 2013, the Gulf Council approved changes to the proposed rule for the Gulf Aquaculture Plan by a vote of 13-4. The proposed rule will now undergo Agency review (including Office of Management and Budget review) prior to being published in the Federal Register for public comment. Public comments will be reviewed and used to draft the final rule. The final rule will also go through Agency review before being published in the Federal Register. After the final rule is published, there will be a 30-day period before applications for operations permits can be accepted.
Due to the varying length of Agency reviews, there is no defined timeline for when the final regulations would become effective; however, it is likely that regulations would not be in place until sometime in 2014.
Background and Approval
The Aquaculture FMP was approved by The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in January 2009. On September 3, 2009, the FMP entered into effect by operation of law.
On that same date, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco announced that NOAA would develop a new national policy to provide context for the FMP. On June 9, 2011, NOAA and the Department of Commerce announced the release of complementary marine aquaculture policies. The NOAA policy includes an appendix that provides guidance for aquaculture in federal waters. NOAA also announced that it would move forward with implementing regulations for the Aquaculture FMP.
NOAA conducted a review of proposed regulations and suggested changes during the February 2013 meeting, at which time they were deemed 'necessary and appropriate.'