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NCCOS Research Project

Aquaculture Mapping Atlas and FARM Model

Primary Contact(s): suzanne.bricker@noaa.gov
This project began in June 2012 and was completed in October 2014

We are integrating two tools commonly used to plan for and site aquaculture: the Farm Aquaculture Resource Management (FARM) Model and the Connecticut Aquaculture Mapping Atlas. This improved tool will help identify the places where aquaculture is compatible with other human uses and where adverse effects on wild species, habitat, and water and sediment quality are minimized.

Why We Care
Shellfish aquaculture has the potential to create jobs and stimulate the economy while protecting the environment and improving water quality. A single adult oyster can clean 60 gallons of water a day. The United States imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, and expanding our aquaculture industry could provide domestic seafood products that are in high demand. However, planning sites for aquaculture facilities in our multi-use coastal waters is difficult and involves complex decision processes.

What We Are Doing
We are integrating the FARM Model with the Aquaculture Mapping Atlas to plan and site aquaculture.

The Aquaculture Mapping Atlas is an interactive, online GIS-based decision-making tool for marine aquaculture that provides maps on general site characteristics (e.g., bathymetry, currents, etc.) that aid in the selection of areas suitable for aquaculture. It is also capable of assessing potential use conflicts (e.g., commercial fishing, recreational angling, etc.) and environmental interactions (e.g., presence of submerged aquatic vegetation, threatened or endangered species, contaminated water and sediment, etc.). The Aquaculture Mapping Atlas has proven to be a valuable tool for Connecticut resource managers.

The Farm Aquaculture Resource Management (FARM) Model combines information about water and sediment quality and about shellfish feeding rates and growth to evaluate the suitability of a site for aquaculture (i.e., whether shellfish can flourish) and the impact of the farm on water quality (i.e., changes in chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen related to aquaculture activity). It also provides an economic analysis of potential production and, based on water-quality parameters that are measured, assesses potential credits for carbon and nitrogen trading. The FARM Model was used to evaluate the suitability of three geographically distinct waterbodies/sites within waterbodies (locations in Stonington, Milford, and Norwalk, Connecticut) to support aquaculture, specifically the estimation of the time for oyster seed to reach harvest size. Results will be integrated as a map layer into the Aquaculture Mapping Atlas.

This project will improve the ability of resource managers, aquaculture farmers, individuals, and organizations involved in stock enhancement or habitat restoration projects to successfully plan activities within multi-use estuaries. It can also foster the expansion of U.S. aquaculture while minimizing adverse environmental and social impacts.

Next Steps
From this pilot study, we hope to develop and apply this approach to other estuaries where shellfish aquaculture is occurring. We hope to investigate how to include dynamic use of the FARM Model that would access real-time data rather than the static application developed here.

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