Pacific Ocean AquaFarms: Proposed Action and Alternatives

NOAA has identified a proposed action and preliminary alternatives for potential consideration in the draft Pacific Ocean AquaFarms Environmental Impact Statement. Learn more about these proposed actions and alternatives.

NOAA has identified a proposed action and preliminary alternatives for potential consideration in the draft Pacific Ocean AquaFarms draft Environmental Impact Statement. Both a no-action and several preliminary action alternatives are presented for consideration for public review and comment. NOAA is also soliciting additional alternatives for consideration. 

No-Action Alternative

Under the no-action alternative, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not issue permits and the applicant would not be authorized to construct or operate a finfish aquaculture facility offshore of southern California; and the project's direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts would not occur. Under the no-action alternative, the proposed project would not take place. However, the resulting environmental effects of no action would be compared with the effects of allowing the proposed project or an alternate project to go forward. 

Reasonable Range of Action Alternatives

Action alternatives describe potential alternative approaches to achieve the defined purpose and need of the proposed action. NOAA is considering the following action alternatives at this time: 

  • San Diego Site Alternative (applicant's proposed action)
  • Long Beach Site Alternative
  • Half-Scale Alternative at either location

San Diego Site Alternative

Depiction of the Pacific Ocean AquaFarms project facility in the location off San Diego, California. Credit: NOAA.
Graphic depicting the Pacific Ocean AquaFarms project in the location off San Diego, California. Credit: NOAA.

Pacific Ocean AquaFarms proposes to construct and operate a new commercial-scale, offshore source of finfish in the United States EEZ approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) off the coast of San Diego. An area of approximately 1,000 acres (4 square kilometers) (exact area to be determined based on engineering design) is sited as suitable for potential use. Of this, approximately 323 acres (1.3 square kilometers) would be occupied by the project, including a total of 28 submersible pens, anchors and mooring lines, and surface marker buoys. The total area may change relative to the exact location of the pen grids, the relative depth of the pends and the final engineering requirements that would delineate the location, number, and depth of mooring lines.

Initial production is projected to yield 2.2 million pounds (1,000 metric tons) annually growing up to 11 million pounds (5,000 metric tons) after environmental monitoring confirms that each successive scale of expansion has not resulted in any substantial environmental or space-use impacts. California yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) would be the initial cultivated species, as it is native to California waters. Other local species, such as white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis), may be grown in addition or in lieu of California yellowtail when the project has become operational under federal and state permit requirements.

Image
Yellowtail school underwater. Credit: AdobeStock/Pacific6Enterprises.
School of yellowtail underwater. Credit: AdobeStock/Pacific6Enterprises.

The project would use established and tested pen and mooring technologies that are able to withstand storm and rough sea conditions. The Pacific Ocean AquaFarms pen culture system would be constructed of high density poly-ethylene pipe with a suspended copper-alloy mesh to control for fouling organisms and inhibit parasitic infestations. The pens would have an approximately 98.4-foot (30-meter) diameter and 46-foot (14-meter) depth.

The mooring system would be designed with two pen grids, each containing two rows of seven pens (28 pens total). Grid cell dimensions would be 328 feet by 328 feet (100 meters by 100 meters). The mooring system would be made of nylon ropes, galvanized steel shackles, and buoys (surface and subsurface) located at nodes in the grid. Steel chains and anchors or concrete blocks would secure the system to the ocean floor.

Once all applicable permits are obtained, construction of the aquaculture facilities will take approximately 1 year. Stocking of the cages would then occur sometime within the following year, with the first commercial harvest occurring 18 to 24 months later. Pacific Ocean AquaFarms would scale up production after initial yields are reached and subject to environmental monitoring. The anticipated maximum production up to 11 million pounds (5,000 metric tons) per year would occur approximately 3–6 years after the project is constructed.

Once operational, the aquaculture facility would follow Best Aquaculture Practices set forth by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (in collaboration with the World Wildlife Foundation) and the Global Aquaculture Alliance. The applicant has proposed to only work with feed suppliers and processing facilities that are Best Aquaculture Practices certified.

Dedicated vessels would haul feed, personnel, and harvested fish to and from the aquaculture facility daily from the Port of San Diego. The vessels would include an offshore feeding system, harvest vessel, multi-use vessel, and a personnel transport vessel. A dedicated harvest vessel would visit the aquaculture facility site at least three times per week at full production to remove fish from the net pens. Actual frequency of use would depend on time of year and harvesting schedule as determined by fish growth and aquaculture facility need.

Landslide facilities would include existing facilities and infrastructure at the Port of San Diego. Pier or wharf access would be needed for construction staging as well as the preparation, loading, and unloading of feed and harvested fish. Occasional access would also be needed to transport juvenile fish to the aquaculture facility and to accommodate vessel docking or mooring capacity for multiple vessels of various lengths.

The latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for the site alternative are:

Latitude (DD) Longitude (DD)
32.7771 -117.3165
32.7763 -117.3158
32.7750 -117.3164
32.7729 -117.3173
32.7696 -117.3182
32.7617 -117.3433
32.7690 -117.3492
32.7688 -117.3466
32.7753 -117.3444
32.7764 -117.3457
32.7791 -117.3457
32.7791 -117.3182
Regional map, at a 1:200,000 scale, showing approximate location of San Diego alternative site, approximately four nautical miles due west of Mission Beach, San Diego, California.
Vicinity map at a 1:75,000 scale, showing approximate location of San Diego alternative site, approximately four nautical miles due west of Mission Beach, San Diego, California.

Long Beach Site Alternative

This action alternative would construct and operate the Pacific Ocean AquaFarms aquaculture grid arrays offshore at approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) southwest of Huntington Beach in Long Beach. The Long Beach site has not been analyzed by the Department of Defense to receive informal clearance. However, the analysis conducted by the National Ocean Service included review of DoD spatial data regarding operating areas, ocean disposal areas, unexploded ordinances, danger zones, and restricted areas and adequate surface and seafloor space was identified that avoided these areas.

Onshore facilities needed for this alternative would be similar to those identified for the proposed action, but would be expected to be located within existing developed areas as the Port of Long Beach or the Port of Los Angeles. Aside from the different side location, this alternative would be of similar size at full build-out, would use the same net pen design, anchoring design, phased development, and operational plans as the San Diego Site Alternative. 

The latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for the site alternative are:

Latitude (DD) Longitude (DD)
33.5761 -118.0335
33.5833 -118.0593
33.5834 -118.0592
33.5919 -118.0558
33.5918 -118.0461
33.5835 -118.0160
33.5785 -118.0180
33.5762 -118.0237
Regional map, at a 1:200,000 scale, showing approximate location of Long Beach alternative site, approximately four nautical miles southwest of Huntington Beach, California.
Vicinity map at a 1:75,000 scale, showing approximate location of Long Beach alternative site, approximately four nautical miles southwest of Huntington Beach, California.

Half-Scale Alternative

This action alternative would consider an initial projected production of 2.2 million pounds (1,000 metric tons) and a final production of 5.5 million pounds (2,500 metric tons) from 3–6 years after the project is constructed and operated. This production level and project spatial extent would be approximately half that described in the San Diego Site Alternative. The anchoring and mooring system for a single submerged grid would use the same engineering design as the full-scale San Diego Site Alternative. Only one pen grid containing two rows of seven pens (14 pens total) would be installed. The half-scale alternative would be analyzed for both the San Diego and Long Beach Alternative sites. 

Last updated by Office of Policy on November 19, 2020