Offshore Aquaculture Escapes Genetics Assessment (OMEGA) Model

To fulfill its stewardship mission, NOAA Fisheries and partners produced models adapted from stock enhancement to assess risk and develop management approaches and regulations that balance aquaculture industry needs with protecting wild stocks. Development of marine aquaculture has raised concerns due in part to the potential for negative ecological and genetic impacts should farmed fish escape and encounter wild stocks. Genetic impacts due to interbreeding between wild and escaped fish may result in reduced genetic diversity within and among populations and loss of fitness, which compromises adaptive potential and may make a population less responsive to changing environmental conditions. With increased interest in marine aquaculture in the United States, NOAA Fisheries has aided in the development of a scientific decision-support tool called the Offshore Mariculture Escapes Genetics Assessment (OMEGA) model to better understand these effects and aid in the design of management strategies to address the potential risks to marine resources.

OMEGA is a mathematical model with inputs that include the size and growth characteristics of the cultured fish, the frequency and magnitude of escape events, survival rates of escapees in the wild, probability of escaped fish encountering wild counterparts and interbreeding, and the dynamics of the wild population. Outputs from OMEGA describe the influence these aquaculture escapees may have on the survival and fitness of the mixed population over time. NOAA Fisheries is using the OMEGA model to identify and evaluate the genetic risks associated with marine aquaculture operations, recommend management practices for responsible and sustainable aquaculture programs, explore the effects of regulatory and technical advances, and identify research priorities.

Download the OMEGA Model (Excel)


More About the OMEGA Model

Current work is focused on 1) a sensitivity analysis to identify input variables with significant or non-significant effects on model output toward making OMEGA fully operational and user-friendly and 2) fostering external collaborations to develop model scenarios with data from aquaculture operations worldwide. The NOAA Office of Aquaculture is interested in collaboration to develop model scenarios, evaluate model parameters, and validate the model with data from current and planned aquaculture operations. Please contact for more information.

Below are links to supporting documentation for the model.

Download the Index of User Inputs (PDF, 7 pages)

Download OMEGA User Guide (PDF, 131 pages)