What is Marine Aquaculture?
Marine aquaculture refers to the culturing (i.e., “farming”) of species that live in the ocean. In the U.S., marine aquaculture primarily produces oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and salmon as well as lesser amounts of cod, moi, yellowtail, barramundi, seabass, and seabream.
Marine aquaculture can take place in the ocean (in cages, on the seafloor, or suspended in the water column) or in on-land, man-made systems such as ponds or tanks. Recirculating aquaculture systems that reduce, reuse, and recycle water and waste can support some marine species.
Marine Aquaculture in the Southeast
In the southeast region (Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), marine aquaculture focuses on stock enhancement (i.e., the release of juvenile fishes to supplement wild populations), food production, research, and restoration efforts. Species cultured in the region include oysters, clams, shrimp, red drum, almaco jack, spotted seatrout, summer flounder, snook, pompano, black seabass, and algae.
Most culture occurs on land in tanks or ponds as well as in coastal areas or state waters. More information on NOAA’s role in marine aquaculture can be found on the Office of Aquaculture website. Search for NOAA funding opportunities specific to marine aquaculture here.
Live Rock in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico
NOAA Fisheries issues permits for aquacultured live rock (the growth of corals and sponges for sale in the aquarium trade) in federal waters off the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts of Florida. Permit applications are available for download from the Southeast Regional Office.
Shellfish Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico
Shellfish aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry and will continue to increase with seafood demand and an increasing human population. The Gulf states are an important producer of farmed bivalves such as hard clams, oysters, bay scallops, and sunray venus clams. In 2016, the Gulf states produced more shellfish by volume than any other region in the nation.
Offshore Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico
NOAA defines offshore aquaculture as aquaculture that occurs in federal waters. In the U.S., federal waters being where state jurisdiction ends and extends out to 200 nautical miles. NOAA is involved with a variety of projects and partnerships to expand sustainable offshore aquaculture in the Gulf including a multi-agency Memorandum of Understanding, the Gulf Aquaculture Plan, and the new Gulf AquaMapper tool.