NOAA Fisheries has identified US federal waters off southern California and in the Gulf of Mexico as the first two regions to host the so-called “aquaculture opportunity areas” (AOAs).
The selection of these regions is the first step in a process designed to establish 10 AOAs nationwide by 2025 under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier in May.
These two regions were selected for future AOA locations based on the already available spatial analysis data and current industry interest in developing sustainable aquaculture operations in the region.
AOAs are defined as geographic areas that have been evaluated for their potential for sustainable commercial aquaculture. Selected areas are expected to support multiple aquaculture farm sites of varying types including finfish, shellfish, seaweed, or some combination of these farm types.
To identify each area, NOAA Fisheries will use scientific analysis and public engagement to highlight spaces that are environmentally, socially, and economically appropriate for commercial aquaculture.
There is no predetermined size for an AOA. Each of the first two areas may accommodate approximately three to five commercial aquaculture operations, but this will vary depending on the specifics of the location.
The size and shape of operations in each area will be determined as part of the AOA identification process. During this process, the NOAA will work with federal and state partners, tribes, and interested stakeholders to determine the appropriate size of each AOA.
The process will include using best available science to consider aspects such as:
- Types of species likely to be cultivated
- Maximum number and configuration of operations within an area
- Maximum annual farm production based on carrying capacity modeling
- Monitoring considerations
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