Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the main federal agency tasked with managing ocean resources, will move to designate waters off Southern California and in the Gulf of Mexico as “Aquaculture Opportunity Areas” (AOA). Areas designated as AOAs have been pre-approved for expansion of industrial aquaculture facilities, as dictated in President Trump’s May 2020 Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth.
“The expansion of industrial aquaculture in California and the Gulf of Mexico threatens local fishing communities, ecosystems and coastal economies. NOAA should protect our wildlife, waters and all the people who depend on them for their livelihoods and for recreation, rather than paving the way for development of harmful facilities that can pollute wild ecosystems and destroy our already struggling local economies.”
Separately, the Army Corps of Engineers is also taking new action in response to the Executive Order. The agency will streamline marine finfish aquaculture permitting by short-cutting the public and agency review process of each permit application and creating a national permit for all similar facilities.
“Preventing the public and agencies from taking an important ‘hard look’ at risks and consequences of every new offshore marine finfish aquaculture facility is a big mistake – and raises legal questions. Globally, the industry has been associated with a wide range of problems, and countries like Canada and Denmark are moving away from this form of seafood production. To speed up development of these facilities in the United States without allowing for proper review and discussion will cause widespread damage both ecologically and economically.”