Aquaculture Science and Research on the West Coast
NOAA Fisheries’ Science has been fulfilling our legal mandate to address the environmental impacts of aquaculture.
Together with industry and non-governmental organizations, scientists at both the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center have been exploring a variety of technologies and other developments that can be used both domestically and internationally.
Our science has substantially increased our understanding and ability to monitor and mitigate the various threats to the production and marketability of West Coast's valuable shellfish. NOAA Fisheries’ scientists are developing a sophisticated ocean monitoring system that provides the real-time information shellfish growers need to strategically manage hatchery operations. NOAA Fisheries’ scientists are continuing laboratory studies on the biological effects of ocean acidification on cultured species. NOAA Fisheries is also restoring native oyster habitat and developing powerful, predictive tools to forecast dangerous algal blooms or pathogens that can contaminate shellfish in Puget Sound, Washington.
Commercial Finfish Aquaculture
NOAA Fisheries has published two scientific technical memorandums analyzing the effects of net pen Atlantic salmon farming in the Pacific Northwest (Nash 2001, Waknitz 2002). Together, these documents assess the risks associated with salmon farming, identify best management practices to minimize risks, and find no harm to Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmonids from the operations of existing farms. Additionally, NOAA Fisheries has produced reports on alternative feeds and genetic risks for finfish aquaculture (see Finfish Resources listed below).
Two species of Puget Sound rockfish have been listed under the ESA (Bocaccio and yelloweye rockfish). NOAA Fisheries issued a Final Recovery Plan in 2017 to recover the species to the point where they no longer require the protections of the ESA. Washington State has also issued a Puget Sound Rockfish Recovery Plan (2011) that includes bocaccio and yelloweye rockfish. A key provision of Washington State’s recovery plan is to promote the restoration of depleted stocks to sustainable levels through the appropriate use of hatchery programs and artificial habitats. NOAA Fisheries has successfully spawned and reared native rockfish species using aquaculture.
Lingcod could be a candidate species for enhancement. Lingcod is one of 90+ species managed through the policies of the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. NOAA Fisheries researchers have demonstrated that they can successfully rear lingcod in captivity with high survival after release into the wild.
Macroalgae is a "green" product that can be reared with minimal energy input, can use organic fertilizers based on fish processing wastes, and has very low nutrient discharges. Macroalgal culture offers significant economic development potential for rural coastal areas. Current research is focused on the production of fresh macroalgae in a land-based system.
Sablefish, also known as black cod, is currently the subject of research at NOAA Fisheries’ Manchester Lab in Puget Sound, Washington. NOAA Fisheries scientists are working on the feasibility of sustainable sablefish net pen culture in Puget Sound.
NOAA Science Supports Shellfish Aquaculture (PDF, 4 pages)
Genetic Risk Report, NWFSC (PDF, 171 pages)
Net-Pen Salmon Farming Industry in the PNW (PDF, 147 pages)
Potential Impacts from Atlantic Salmon Culture (PDF, 98 pages)