Ocean Strategies Principal’s Report – California Aquaculture Update

December 12, 2023

Brett Veerhusen: Aquaculture Insights from California

It was a tough sell leaving Seattle for sunny San Diego in November. But the California Aquaculture Siting and Development Workshop, presented by National Sea Grant and NCCOS, called me south. I’m glad I went because I was the only commercial fisherman in attendance (not surprising given the Pacific Council was also meeting). ‘Tis the [meeting] season.

Many commercial fishing leaders served on the workshop’s advisory board and shaped a highly informative day. Did you know that Californians consume 25% of the seafood eaten in America? They also eat about 60% of the FDA’s recommended seafood portions, a higher rate than most other states, but still room for growth. It’s no wonder that given California’s outsized role in seafood consumption there is heightened interest in growing more locally.

Ocean Strategies is working in California after receiving a grant from Sea Pact to improve coordination and communication between aquaculture industries and California’s commercial fishing community. I’m a fisherman, but I’m not from California. So my first step is to listen, ask questions and try to understand the landscape. Here’s what stood out to me:

  • Fishermen are stretched thin. Offshore wind development, whale concerns, urgent management issues like crashing salmon populations and loss of working waterfronts are eating away at precious advocacy capacity. Aquaculture isn’t rising to the top, and aquaculturists and regulators need to go the extra mile with outreach and education. It’ll save a lot of headache in the long run. (If you need help, please let us know!)

  • Whether it’s environmental concerns, water quality impacting human health, coastal development or NIMBYism, navigating California’s aquaculture regulations is tough. That’s why the Port of San Diego is completing pre-development work to support aquaculture opportunities within San Diego Bay. The Humboldt Bay Mariculture Pre-Permitted Project already finalized a similar initiative. Localized, stakeholder-driven planning on siting and best practices is a critical step for safe, successful development that works with and comes from the community.

  • Ocean Rainforest is expanding its seaweed operations from the Faroe Islands to Santa Barbara and hopes to have seed planted in 2024 for its pilot offshore farm. The company’s team took great lengths in outreach to the fishing community.

  • Sea Grant is looking to gather and provide feedback to NCCOS on different spatial planning tools like the Coastal Aquaculture Planning Portal. Attend an upcoming workshop or connect with your local Sea Grant office.

Heads up that NOAA is slated to release its draft PEIS in summer 2024 to identify one or more Aquaculture Opportunity Area(s) in Southern California.

Couldn’t make it to San Diego but want to participate? Sea Grant is hosting another virtual workshop on Monday, January 22, 2024 — register here.

*An excerpt from our latest aquaculture policy report, stay tuned for the entire 2023 Wrap-Up: Aquaculture Policy Report. Ocean Strategies often posts news and opportunities related to the aquaculture industry on our LinkedIn page. Be sure to follow and connect with us!

Ocean Strategies

Ocean Strategies

Ocean Strategies is a versatile public affairs firm specializing in seafood, fisheries and marine resources.

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