Potential Aquaculture Management Program in the Pacific Islands
NOAA Fisheries, in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), prepared a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS) to analyze the potential environmental impacts of a Federal aquaculture management program, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.
The National Environmental Policy Act is an environmental law that promotes the protection of the environment and established the President's Council on Environmental Quality. The law was enacted on January 1, 1970, and requires agencies to consider a range of proposed alternative activities to the one proposed, including no action. The DPEIS analyzes management alternatives for aquaculture in Federal waters of the Pacific Islands.
- Alternative 1—Status Quo / No Action
- Alternatives 2 and 3—Establish a coordinated, comprehensive aquaculture management program in Federal Waters with varying limitations on permit duration, allowable species, and allowable gear types
Under current Federal fisheries management, NOAA does not require a permit or otherwise regulate aquaculture in Federal waters, with limited exceptions. Without a management program, future aquaculture operations would develop in an ad hoc manner without Federal review or control of the species, timing, location, or details of an aquaculture operation. This DPEIS analysis allows NOAA and the Council to take a holistic look at aquaculture in the Pacific Islands and increase the efficiency and transparency of sustainable development.
The Pacific Islands Regional Office has permitted limited aquaculture projects in Federal waters off the Island of Hawaii under the Special Coral Reef Ecosystem Fishing Permit provisions in 50 CFR 665.224. The regulations allow NOAA Fisheries to review and, if appropriate, allow the harvest of coral reef ecosystem species using gear that would otherwise be prohibited. The analysis and coordination required to support these individual permit is resource-intensive and not timely for both the applicant and the Pacific Islands Regional Office. Creating a potential aquaculture management program would support sustainable development of offshore aquaculture and ensure protection for the region's physical, biological and socioeconomic environment.
NOAA Fisheries must receive comments on the DPEIS by August 5, 2021.
Global Seafood Production
Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and plants in all types of water environments, including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Aquaculture plays a variety of important roles in the region’s and the nation’s fisheries, contributing to seafood supply, fostering economic growth and development, restoring fish habitats, and helping preserve indigenous cultural practices.
Purpose and Need
The purpose of this action is to develop a management program to support an environmentally sound and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in Federal waters of the Pacific Islands. The Council would establish the program by amending their five Fishery Ecosystem Plans, and NOAA Fisheries would implement the program through Federal regulations, education, and monitoring.
Action Area—Federal Waters of the Pacific Islands Region
Amendments to the fishery ecosystem plan would establish a Federal management program for aquaculture fisheries in Federal waters (generally 3 to 200 nm from shore) around the islands of American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Pacific Remote Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The action area analyzed in the DPEIS encompasses the same locations.
Possible Features of an Aquaculture Management Program
- Permitting eligibility requirements
- Permitting application and review requirements
- Permit duration defined for commercial and research permits
- Program capacity requirements
- Siting requirements
- Allowable system/gear types
- Allowable species
- Recordkeeping and reporting requirements
Possible Environmental Impact of a Potential Aquaculture Management Program
We assess the possible environmental impacts according to five criteria identified through scoping and common environmental concerns related to aquaculture. These criteria are:
- Impacts of effluents from marine aquaculture facilities
- Impacts on habitat and ecosystem
- Impacts on local wild fish stocks
- Impacts on other marine wildlife and protected species
- Social and economic impacts