Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
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The legal and regulatory environment surrounding the offshore aquaculture industry is cited consistently as one of the major hurdles to its development in the United States. In 1978, the National Research Council found that the procedures required to obtain permits and licenses for offshore aquaculture "have been a severe deterrent" to the development of the industry. Upon passage of the National Aquaculture Act in 1980, the U.S. Congress noted the "diffused legal jurisdiction" and "lack of supportive Government policies" when it codified the national policy of encouraging the development of aquaculture in the United States.
During the last twenty years since the passage of the Act, the aquaculture industry has seen few actual improvements in the structure of permitting and licensing. Multiple federal and state agencies have jurisdiction over aquaculture because it affects traditionally governed areas such as water supply, the use of navigable waters, food production, and environmental protection. Such agencies have excelled at regulating and permitting land-based aquaculture regimes, refining the licensing procedures and regulations with aquaculture industry development. In contrast, the offshore aquaculture regulatory structure offers significant hurdles for its development.
Findings about these legal and regulatory hurdles are not new. There have been numerous calls for improvements during the last decade. Individuals interested in developing sustainable offshore aquaculture face challenges in the form of a fragmented and often inconsistent permitting process among the federal, state, and local agencies and questions regarding leasing, siting, and property rights. Many of these issues must be resolved before a sustainable industry can be developed.
The Sea Grant Gulf of Mexico Offshore Aquaculture Consortium (OAC), a university-based research consortium in offshore aquaculture, was created to establish a platform for research on aquaculture engineering, environmental and marine policy issues governing aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators at the Sea Grant Legal Program have found that the jurisdiction of federal agencies overlaps and often leaves agency personnel and aquaculture investors confused as to permitting and regulatory processes.
Current research goals have been expanded to include an evaluation and potential restructuring of the current federal system for regulating and permitting offshore aquaculture. Also, investigators will research the use of marine zoning to create specific sites for aquaculture leases in the EEZ. Researchers will conduct a review of global aquaculture modes of siting and leasing of coastal and offshore cages and the historical background of such a framework. The review will provide the most feasible method of siting, appropriate to all user groups, and provide essential background to develop the legal framework for an Experimental Marine Aquaculture Zone (MAZ). This research will provide templates for restructuring aquaculture authority and for the creation of a marine zone in order to initiate dialogue between agencies and remove the legal and regulatory hurdles impeding the development of offshore aquaculture.
Principal Investigator: Kristen Fletcher, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program
Co-Principal Investigator: Ralph Rayburn, Texas Sea Grant College Program
Co-Principal Investigator: Erinn Neyrey, Louisiana Sea Grant Legal Program
Co-Principal Investigator: Chris Bridger, Offshore Aquaculture Consortium
Relevant Statutory Sections
For more information, visit:
Phone (662) 915-7775 • Fax (662) 915-5267 • 256 Kinard Hall, Wing E, University, MS 38677-1848