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Proposed Aquaculture Management Program in Federal Waters of the Pacific Islands Region


Public Scoping and Alternative Development
Fishing Type
Action Status


NOAA Fisheries, in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), intends to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the potential environmental impacts of a federal aquaculture management program.

The National Environmental Policy Act is a United States environmental law that promotes the enhancement 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 the possible range of alternatives including the “no action” alternative. The PEIS would analyze alternatives for a federal aquaculture program. Preliminary alternative include:

  • Alternative 1—Status Quo / No Action
  • Alternative 2—Establish an Aquaculture Management Program in federal Waters

With the exception of coral reef ecosystem species, which require a Special Coral Reef Ecosystem Fishing Permit, there is no requirement for federal permits to conduct aquaculture in federal waters. Without a management program, future aquaculture operations would develop in an ad hoc manner without federal review or control of the what (species), when, where, or how of an operation.

The Pacific Islands Regional Office has permitted a series of three aquaculture research projects in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around 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, permit the harvest of coral reef ecosystem management unit species using gear that is not otherwise allowed by regulation. Due to the analysis and coordination required to support each individual permit, this project-based permitting process is resource-intensive and not timely for both the applicant and the Pacific Islands Regional Office.

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 is used to support restoration activities and produce food, sport, bait, and ornamental fish. 

Graph of global seafood production from 1950-2013.

Global Seafood Production Statistics for 1950-2013.

  • Worldwide marine capture fisheries has been at around 85 million metric tons, while aquaculture production greatly exceeds marine harvests and is expected to continue to rise.
  • As of 2006, about 80 percent of marine stocks are harvested to their sustainable limit or overexploited (50 percent sustainable limit, 30 percent overexploited).
  • Improved fishery management can get us part of the way there, but most of the increase will be from aquaculture.
  • China dominates world aquaculture production, being responsible for 2/3 of the world's aquaculture production by weight and 1/2 of the world’s aquaculture monetary value.
  • In the Pacific, Asia produces 89 percent of all shrimp and 95 percent of all oysters, and conducts 94 percent of all aquaculture operations.

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 Island Region. The program would be implemented by amending the five Fishery Ecosystem Plans that the Council uses to manage fisheries in the Pacific Islands Region.

Action Area—Federal Waters of the Pacific Islands Region

The proposed Fishery Ecosystem Plan amendments would establish a federal management program for aquaculture fisheries in the EEZ (generally 3 to 200 nm) around islands of American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Pacific Remote Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The action area analyzed in the PEIS will depend on the alternatives developed for aquaculture locations.

Two maps side-by-side, Pacific Ocean on the left and main Hawaiian Islands on the right.


Potential Features of an Aquaculture Management Program

  • Permitting Requirements—insurance, emergency plan, baseline studies, reporting.
  • Permit Duration—5, 10, 20 years.
  • Allowable Gear Types—cages, net pens, size (capacity, footprint).
  • Allowable Species—native species, finfish only.
  • Siting Requirements—zoning, placement, and space between facilities.

Potential Environmental Issues

  • Impacts to benthic habitat and other sensitive habitats.
  • Impacts to water quality from effluent, chemicals, and antibiotics.
  • Impacts from spread of disease and parasites to wild stocks.
  • Impacts from escaped cultured fish on wild stocks (genetic transfer, predation).

Protected species interactions

  • Use of wild fish stocks for feed.
  • Non-native species introductions.
  • Potential industry/development issues.

Supporting Materials

Last updated by Pacific Islands Regional Office on 05/31/2019