Office of Aquaculture Priorities
The Office of Aquaculture focuses on several distinct priority areas including regulation and policy, science and research, outreach and education, and international activities. NOAA's aquaculture work is supported by mandates including aquaculture policies, Administration priorities, and legislative mandates that charge NOAA with ensuring that U.S. marine aquaculture develops sustainably, in concert with healthy, productive, and resilient coastal ecosystems. This page examines those priority areas and outlines NOAA's work in each area.
Regulation and Policy
The Office of Aquaculture addresses regulatory and policy issues as they relate to marine aquaculture in the United States. The purpose of this effort is to enable domestic aquaculture production within the context of NOAA’s marine stewardship responsibilities, which include the protection of the marine environment while balancing multiple uses of coastal and ocean waters. NOAA's role in aquaculture regulation includes:
- consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on permitting
- consultations with the Environmental Protection Agency on endangered species, fish habitat, and marine mammal protection
- issuing permits for aquaculture in federal waters under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
- developing guidance and work with regional Fishery Management Councils on a regulatory framework for aquaculture in federal waters
- streamlining permitting processes and increasing regulatory efficiency in both state and federal waters, while maintaining environmental stewardship responsibilities.
Science and Research
For over four decades, NOAA has been an international leader in aquaculture research and technology development. Innovative research has been conducted by scientists within NOAA, through collaborative research with academic and private sector partners, via international and bilateral research initiatives with foreign scientists, and through a NOAA-run competitive grants program for marine aquaculture. Areas of emphasis have included research on environmental effects, aquatic health, nutrition, early life history culture techniques, aquatic species restoration, stock enhancement, and ecosystem management.
The overall goal of these research initiatives is to provide science knowledge for the agency's regulatory and resource management decisions and foster innovative and sustainable approaches to aquaculture.
The program’s current research initiatives focus on:
- strengthening aquaculture research capabilities at the agency’s regional Fisheries Science Centers
- in-house research focused on genetics, alternative feeds for marine fish, restoration of threatened and endangered species, and stock enhancement; and
- Research and development through the Saltonstall-Kennedy Competitive Research Program, the NOAA Small Business Innovation Research Program, the National Sea Grant College Program, and other competitive grants programs
Outreach and Education
An integral part of NOAA’s overall mission is a well-informed public that acts as a steward of coastal and marine ecosystems. The Office of Aquaculture supports this aspect of the agency’s mission by contributing to public understanding and appreciation of the role of aquaculture as a vital national food source and fishery management tool.
The office’s outreach and education activities include disseminating scientific and general aquaculture information and NOAA research at public meetings and conferences, through the Sea Grant and USDA Aquaculture Extension networks, and through the web and social media.
The program’s primary audiences for this information are coastal communities, research scientists, the aquaculture and seafood industries, commercial and recreational fishermen, fishery management councils and commissions, other government agencies, academia, and interested non-governmental organizations.
The NOAA Aquaculture Program is involved in a variety of international bilateral research exchanges, including a Living Marine Resources Exchange with China, an ongoing scientific exchange program with Korea, and the U.S.-Japanese Cooperative Program in Natural Resources (UJNR). The program also works with policymakers and researchers from France, Norway, and Canada on an ongoing basis. In addition, NOAA participates in multilateral and bilateral government meetings on aquaculture with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union, Chile, Mexico, and other countries, and plays an active role in international fisheries conventions. In addition, the program works with the NOAA Seafood Inspection Program on trade issues.
Structure of the Office of Aquaculture
NOAA's aquaculture program draws on managerial, policy, and scientific expertise from across the agency and is coordinated by the Office of Aquaculture at NOAA Fisheries headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Aquaculture Office works with personnel in NOAA's other line offices, Regional Offices, and Fisheries Science Centers as well as with its federal, state, local, tribal, and academic partners.