World’s first offshore fish farm on its way to Norway in 2017                                                   Credit:


Two offshore waters already have been selected as Aquaculture Opportunity Areas, or AOAs, as part of the plans to expand U.S. seafood production — the Gulf of Mexico and off Southern California.

NOAA’s Aquaculture Program is tasked with identifying 10 AOAs over the next five years.  The new industry will use existing infrastructure, such as docks, processing plants, and transportation routes to create new and sustainable economic opportunities.

Danielle Blacklock, director of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Aquaculture, explained more at a SeafoodSource webinar –

“We’re looking for places that are appropriate in multiple different ways – they need to be appropriate environmentally or ecologically, meaning that areas have the right kind of current flow, the right depth, but they also need to be appropriate socially so we’re looking to minimize user conflict. We’re not going to be in shipping lanes and we’re looking to stay out of traditional fishing grounds. And we’re also trying to make sure that they are economically appropriate, meaning that they are close enough to a port that landing their harvest is not too much of a challenge.”

There is no predetermined size for an area and they could vary depending on what kinds of fish, shellfish and seaweeds are being grown.

Blacklock said NOAA hopes to also collaborate with states for Opportunity Areas in their regions.

Paul Doremus, Chief Operating Officer for NOAA Fisheries, said while Alaska has banned fish farming since the 1980s, the offshore waters could provide big opportunities for growing other things.

 “There is a very vibrant mariculture industry in Alaska and an enormous amount of interest in seaweed production and various mollusks and shellfish. This also is a path to diversifying the seafood sector and something that a lot of folks in Alaska are very excited about. They are not excited about finfish so that is unlikely to happen.”

By yesterday only 31 comments were submitted to NOAA, most from private citizens and none from Alaska state or federal fishery managers. Most of the comments were opposed to offshore fish farms citing pollution and navigation concerns.

Tuesday is the deadline to share your thoughts — One click will take you to the Aquaculture Opportunity Areas page.