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National Shellfish Initiative

Oysters cultivated in plastic net bags supported above the ground are more protected from predators and have greater access to free-flowing nutrients; thus, they grow faster and have more delicate characteristics than bottom culture oysters. Here, hanging oyster culture in New England. (credit: NOAA Aquaculture Office)

Goal of the Initiative

The goal of the National Shellfish Initiative is to increase populations of bivalve shellfish in our nation’s coastal waters through commercial production and conservation activities.  Launched in June 2011, the initiative has been successful in bringing together partners to increase populations of oysters, clams, and mussels in our nation’s coastal waters. NOAA recognizes the broad suite of economic, social, and environmental benefits provided by sustainably increasing shellfish, including

NOAA and its partners have made some welcome progress on many fronts with the initiative.  See what we have been working on here.

Working with Partners

Efforts are underway with partners in several states including Washington, Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, and California to expand opportunities for shellfish farming and restoration.  For example, a shellfish initiative launched in Washington state is a comprehensive federal, state, and industry partnership that promotes new economic opportunities, restoration and improved water quality, as well as science on the impacts of ocean acidification on local oysters.

To maximize these ecological and economic benefits, NOAA is collaborating with public and private partners to seek opportunities in the following areas:

  1. Spatial planning and permitting – Make progress on siting commercial and restoration shellfish projects that meet existing federal, state, and local regulations for environmental protection, water quality, food safety, and public health. This effort will include engaging with local and regional groups that carry out coastal and marine spatial planning; improving coordination among federal, state, and local agencies to clarify permitting processes and make them more transparent, predictable, and efficient without compromising human or environmental health; developing model permit processes; and implementing the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 48 for commercial shellfish aquaculture.
  2. Environmental research – Conduct and support research on environmental factors that may affect shellfish populations (e.g., ocean acidification, pathogens); ecosystem benefits provided by shellfish (e.g., fish habitat water filtration); potential impacts of shellfish projects on adjacent habitats and resources (e.g., submerged aquatic vegetation); and other data collection to assess and refine conservation strategies and priorities.
  3. Restoration and farming techniques – Support innovative commercial culture and conservation techniques; enhance hatchery efforts to increase shellfish seed supply; and provide technical assistance and information sharing across commercial and conservation activities.
  4. Coordinated and innovative financing – Prioritize and coordinate funding among conservation, commercial, and research activities. Promote opportunities to leverage public investments. Explore options to place monetary value on ecosystem services provided by shellfish projects (e.g., nutrient reduction, carbon sequestration).

Coordinating with Federal Agencies

In partnership with others, NOAA is seeking to leverage its existing staff, regulatory authorities, and grant programs to implement this initiative. To identify targeted actions for implementation, NOAA staff will be coordinating with other federal agencies and reaching out to potential participants from industry, restoration groups, academia, states, tribes, and other stakeholders. In addition, we will be reviewing

Contact Us

If you have questions or comments regarding the National Shellfish Initiative, please contact:

If you have specific project ideas, please contact the appropriate NOAA Fisheries Regional Aquaculture Coordinator (A) or Shellfish Restoration Coordinator (R) for your region. For Alaska, which does not yet have a coordinator, please contact the Office of Aquaculture.

LocationContact NameEmailPhone number
Southeast regionDr. Jessica Beck (A)
Meg Goecker (R)
Northeast regionDavid Alves (A)
Bryan DeAngelis (R)
Southwest regionDiane Windham (A)
Natalie Manning (R)
Northwest regionDr. Laura Hoberecht(A)
Laurel Jennings (R)
Pacific Islands region
Alan Everson (A)alan.everson@noaa.gov808-944-2212