Development and Testing of an Operational Framework for Offshore Aquaculture in Conjunction with Stakeholders at National and Regional Level

* About This Project * Previous Work * What's New * Team Members *
* Advisory Committee * Timeline * Workshops * Links * Home *

Welcome! This page provides information on a collaborative effort being coordinated by Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, Professor and Director of the University of Delaware Center for the Study of Marine Policy to develop a policy framework for marine aquaculture in offshore federal waters of the United States.


In a study funded by the National Sea Grant Program (from October 1999 to March 2001), Dr. Cicin-Sain, together with a multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research team representing natural science, social science, legal, industry, and marine advisory perspectives, developed a policy framework for offshore aquaculture in the 3-200 mile U.S. ocean zone.  The research team worked with an Advisory Committee composed of representatives from the aquaculture and fishing industries, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, and Congress to define the problems challenging the development of an offshore aquaculture industry in the U.S. and defining policy solutions that give predictability to the industry while insuring environmental safety and fairness to other users.

The study focused on the major issues associated with the development of this new offshore industry:  1) the absence of a federal policy framework on marine aquaculture, 2) environmental effects, 3) and public trust issues related to the occupation of public space and effects on other users.  The research examined past studies on this question, and the experience of U.S. coastal states and of 8 other countries with offshore aquaculture to glean lessons on what policy approaches may best be applicable in the U.S. 200-mile zone.

The research developed a set of policy criteria for judging policy options for governance of aquaculture activities, and proposed a set of policy options that address the full life-cycle of offshore projects:  from planning, through the issuance of permits/leases, operation and monitoring of facilities, and eventual abandonment at the end of an offshore aquaculture project.  It should be noted that this work presents a general policy framework for offshore aquaculture governance, and that further work--entailing research, policy analysis, and consensus building among stakeholders-- is needed to make these policy prescriptions operational and readily implementable.

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Building on the work described above and also on other useful work sponsored by the Sea Grant Technology Program on the legal framework affecting offshore aquaculture (by Kristen Fletcher and others in the Gulf of Mexico Region) and related work, this project will develop and test an operational framework for offshore aquaculture in conjunction with stakeholders at national and regional levels.  The previous research team has been expanded to add additional perspectives from industry, environmental groups, the coastal states, and from two other regions in which offshore aquaculture activity is taking place (the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Islands).  The following additional research participants have been invited to collaborate:
--John Corbin, Aquaculture Coordinator, State of Hawaii
--Jeremy Firestone, Center for the Study of Marine Policy, University of Delaware
--Kristen Fletcher, Director of the Mississippi/Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program
--Tony MacDonald, Executive Director, Coastal States Organization
--Betsy Hart, Executive Director, National Aquaculture Association
--Ralph Rayburn, Associate Director, Texas Sea Grant Program
--Boyce Thorne-Miller, Senior Scientist, Ocean Advocates

The expanded research team is working to develop a detailed operational framework for offshore aquaculture addressing the five aspects noted below.  The work involves research, policy analysis, and consensus building among stakeholders and will be developed first at the national level, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders (including federal and state agencies, congressional staff, environmental and industry groups), and then tested and tailored in the context of the three regions which currently exhibit the most extensive activity in offshore aquaculture: New England, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Islands.  Detailed guidance will be developed, tested, and tailored to the three regional contexts for the following five aspects of the framework:

1. Procedures for planning and site assessment for aquaculture operations in the 200-mile ocean zone, including the use of zoning and such tools as remote sensing and geographical information systems.

2. Joint state/federal permitting process for aquaculture involving the use of one comprehensive application form and procedure to meet the application requirements of all agencies involved.

3. Guidelines and standards for the environmental review process to be followed in offshore aquaculture.

4. Guidelines and standards for the issuance of short-term and long-term leases giving the aquaculturist the right to exclusive use of ocean space, subject to certain conditions and rents.

5.  Guidelines and standards for monitoring of aquaculture operations, which may involve conditions on operations such as insurance, bonds, environmental monitoring requirements to insure the safety of operations and, in the case of termination of operations, the removal of structures and the return of the area to its previous state.

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General Methodology

1) The two-year study begins with a workshop (national workshop 1) in Washington DC to which all the federal agencies with a regulatory role in offshore aquaculture, together with Congressional staff and other relevant interests, will be invited to meet with all members of the project team.  The approach to be followed in developing the detailed guidance for the operational framework will be discussed and various options for addressing each of the five aspects noted above will be presented.

2) The team will then develop, in draft form, the detailed operational guidance on each of the five aspects of the operational framework.

3) Different members of the team will take the lead in convening one workshop in their respective regions with the relevant stakeholders and submit the draft guidance to discussion by the regional-level stakeholders.  The intent here is to tailor and refine national-level guidance to fit the varying realities that characterize different offshore regions of the U.S.  Three regional workshops are envisioned.

4) The team will then revise the operational framework taking into account the feedback from the regions, and present a draft revised operational framework to the national-level entities/groups which had participated in national workshop 1.

5) The team will reconvene the participants involved in workshop 1 to present the draft operational framework, obtain input and recommendations for alteration and revision (national workshop 2).  A final operational framework will then be produced in the last months of the project for formal presentation to Congress, to the federal agencies, and other interested parties.

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This project advances the general policy approach developed in past research to an operational and readily implementable framework and build consensus among both national and regional level stakeholders on desirable options to be included in the operational framework.

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Please direct all questions, comments or reports of broken links to John W. Ewart