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CA - Aquaculture Approved for Federal Waters off Southern California

The area would be among the first in the country to allow off-shore fish farming

Southern California will be one of the first two areas to allow aquaculture in federal waters, along with the Gulf of Mexico, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced.

The areas will be the first of 10 planned aquaculture opportunity areas throughout the country, under an executive order signed by President Trump in May. The new rules will allow three to five operations in each area, but the exact type and location of aquaculture projects hasn’t been determined yet, said NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Kate Goggin.

Aquaculture, or fish farming, currently operates in coastal lagoons and bays, but was not previously allowed in federal waters, defined as three to 200 miles offshore. In San Diego, however, local organizations have proposed aquaculture projects in federal waters in recent years. In 2014, Rose Canyon Fisheries, a collaboration of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and a private equity firm called Cuna del Mar, filed an application to open operations off the coast of San Diego.

Officials with NOAA didn’t announce which organizations would be selected to use the areas, or whether Rose Canyon Fisheries is under consideration. They said the sites and types of operations would be based on analysis of hundreds of types of data on ocean conditions and uses such as existing fishing locations, with input from federal and state partners, tribes, and other interested stakeholders.

“We will solicit and consider public and stakeholder comment and work with other federal agencies to find places for aquaculture development that are appropriate from ecological, social, and economic perspectives,” Goggin said.

Operations selected for the first projects “could vary in size, configuration, and species cultivated,” including finfish, shellfish, or seaweed, or other integrated systems, Goggin said. Officials will consider potential impacts to protected species, essential fish habitat and marine protected areas, among other considerations.

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