Marine Aquaculture in NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Region

NOAA Fisheries takes a thorough approach to sustainable aquaculture that will create employment and business opportunities in coastal communities, provide safe, sustainable seafood, and complement the agency's comprehensive strategy for maintaining healthy and productive marine populations, species, and ecosystems and vibrant coastal communities.

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Dr. Bill Walton with the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory checks the growth of oysters in off-bottom culture systems.

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.

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In the southeast, researchers are focusing on production techniques for tripletail, a warm water 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. 

Learn more about NOAA's shellfish aquaculture work 

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. 

Gulf Aquaculture Plan
Interagency Memorandum of Understanding Download File (PDF, 12 pages)

Explore the Gulf AquaMapper 



Jess Beck-Stimpert is NOAA’s Southeast Regional Aquaculture Coordinator. For more information, contact Jess at (727) 551-5755 or  



Understanding Marine Aquaculture

The United States has a small and vibrant commercial marine aquaculture industry supported by world class research and technology.

Musssel harvest in Shelton, WA

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on June 20, 2019