A presidential Executive Order signed in May 2020, Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth, establishes NOAA as the lead agency on aquaculture in federal waters, and calls for establishment of 10 Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) by 2025. The executive order calls for two AOAs to be established per year for five years.
NOAA recently announced the Gulf of Mexico and Southern California will be the first two areas where spatial planning will be used to designate AOAs. In an interview with NPR/WUSF Public Radio, NCCOS’ Dr. James Morris, lead scientist for the NOAA NCCOS Coastal Aquaculture Siting & Sustainability (CASS) team, explained that “a blended seafood production system with both wild caught and farm-raised is our future…it is more resilient, more productive, and ultimately increases jobs.”
Morris said the first AOAs could be anywhere from 500 to 2,000 acres in size, but that these aquaculture areas will not be established on top of major wild-caught fishing grounds. The CASS Team will use their OceanReports spatial planning tool to view offshore activities in these areas of interest and analyze suitability to ensure that the proposed AOA locations are compatible with other ocean industries, oceanographic and environmental considerations, and natural resources.