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Gulf of Mexico Aquaculture Opportunity Area Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

NOAA Fisheries is developing a programmatic environmental impact statement to consider identifying one or more Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in the Gulf of Mexico and we want input from the public.

A Public Planning Process

NOAA Fisheries is developing a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to consider identifying one or more Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) in U.S. federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The PEIS will also evaluate the impacts and benefits associated with siting aquaculture in those locations, which could occur through future proposals and project level review.

The intent of this PEIS is to support long-term planning for offshore aquaculture. The PEIS is not a regulatory or permitting action and does not propose to authorize or permit any specific aquaculture-related activities or individual aquaculture projects. 

Download AOA One-Pager

Upcoming Meetings and Opportunities for Comment

June 1 to August 1, 2022: NOAA Fisheries published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register on June 1, 2022. This initiated a 60-day  public scoping process for the PEIS. The public comment period will end on August 1, 2022. Feedback from the public is vital in helping shape the scope of the PEIS. Comments can be submitted electronically, by mail, or verbally at one of three upcoming virtual public meetings.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. CDT/7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. EDT

Follow this webinar link to view the meeting presentation: :

https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join.php?i=PWXW2739185&p=9612327&t=c

To listen and provide comments, dial l 800-857-5095 and use
participant passcode: 9612327

 

Thursday, June 16, 2022, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CDT/6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. EDT

Follow this webinar link to view the meeting presentation:

https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join.php?i=PWXW2739198&p=9612327&t=c

To listen and provide comments, dial 800-857-5095 and use
participant passcode: 9612327

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. CDT/7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. EDT

Follow this webinar link to view the meeting presentation:
https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join.php?i=PWXW2739199&p=9612327&t=c

To listen and provide comments, dial 800-857-5095 and use participant passcode: 9612327

What is an AOA?

An AOA is a defined geographic area that has been evaluated to determine its potential suitability for commercial aquaculture. 

NOAA Fisheries will use a combination of scientific analysis and public engagement to identify AOAs that may be environmentally, socially, and economically suitable for commercial aquaculture.

AOAs may only be identified by NOAA Fisheries after completion of a final programmatic environmental impact statement and issuance of a Record of Decision, in accordance with NEPA.

Visit NOAA Fisheries national AOA website for more information on AOAs.

What is the goal of and need for identifying AOAs?

The goal of identifying AOAs is to promote American seafood competitiveness, food security, economic growth, and support the facilitation of the development of domestic commercial aquaculture, consistent with sustaining and conserving marine resources and applicable laws, regulations and policies.

In addition to meeting the directives of Executive Order 13921, Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth (E.O. 13921, May 7, 2020), identifying AOAs will help to address the increasing demand for seafood; inform long-term planning for marine aquaculture development; and address interests and concerns regarding offshore marine aquaculture siting.

Expanding sustainable seafood production, both wild-capture and aquaculture, is a key investment in the blue economy. NOAA is committed to developing marine aquaculture as a resource-efficient method of increasing and diversifying U.S. seafood production that can expand and stabilize U.S. seafood supply in the face of environmental change and economic uncertainty.

Preliminary options for AOA locations

In November 2021, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science published a comprehensive spatial modeling study, An Aquaculture Opportunity Atlas for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which identified nine potential options for AOA locations in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

These nine locations were identified using spatial suitability modeling that included data layers relevant to administrative boundaries, national security (i.e., military), navigation and transportation, energy and industry infrastructure, commercial and recreational fishing, natural and cultural resources, and oceanography (i.e., non-living resources). This spatial modeling approach was specific to the planning goal of identifying discrete areas that are 500 - 2,000 acres that met the industry and engineering requirements of depth and distance from shore and that may be suitable for all types of aquaculture development including the cultivation of finfish, macroalgae, shellfish, or a combination of species. 

These nine locations are potential location options that may be considered and evaluated in the draft PEIS, along with a “no action” alternative. NMFS will consider comments received during the public scoping period when determining the number and scope of alternatives to be explored and selecting the locations to be evaluated in the draft PEIS. NMFS is also considering the suitability of evaluating alternatives that would focus on specific aquaculture types (e.g., finfish, shellfish, macroalgae or multi-species), specific species that could be cultivated, or gears that could be used in the nine potential AOA location options identified in the Atlas.

Click on map to enlarge

Map showing all nine potential location options for AOAs in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Three locations, W-1, W-4 and W-8, are located off the coast of Texas. Three locations, C-3, C-11 and C-13, are located off the coast of Louisiana. Three locations, E-1, E-3 and E-4, are located off the west coast of Florida. This map can be found on pages vii and 133 of An Aquaculture Opportunity Atlas for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Cooperating Agencies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and U.S. Air Force will be cooperating agencies on this PEIS. 

For More Information

Contact Andrew Richard, Southeast Regional Aquaculture Coordinator at nmfs.ser.aquaculture@noaa.gov or (727) 551-5709. 

Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf  may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Federal Register Notices 

Notice of Intent to Prepare PEIS

 

 

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on June 07, 2022