Coastal News from the Field: Evaluating the Public’s View of the Offshore Aquaculture Industry

By Paul Zajicek

Changing climactic conditions, advanced harvesting technologies, and population increases have collectively stressed the United States seafood stock. Offshore aquaculture shows prospect as an avenue to a future with sustainable seafood, yet the public’s enthusiasm for this industry has waned as a result of a variety of longstanding and inaccurate myths and assumptions directed at offshore aquaculture farming and its regulation. In response to this dilemma, a team of authors with combined marine aquaculture regulatory and/or production experience exceeding 120 years, has published in Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture a paper,  entitled “Refuting Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms, and Assumptions”.  The paper is available as open access.  To read or download, click here.

Maine farmers began producing Atlantic Salmon in the 1970s using net pens in coastal waters.

The authors discuss sustainable domestic aquaculture development as a critical component to achieving greater U.S. seafood security in the future, yet detrimental allegations have corrupted public support. This paper refutes the most prevalent critiques by reviewing current policies, regulations, research, and industry production practices. These criticisms include: inadequate regulatory oversight; portrayal of farms as being high density factories unconcerned by feed waste, untreated discharge, use of antibiotic and antifungal treatments; entanglement of marine mammals; impacts on wild stocks and habitats; use of feed additives to pigment fish flesh; unsustainable use of fish meal in feed formulations; potential market disruption by producing cheap, low quality products; and commercial farms and commercial fishers cannot coexist as for-profit businesses.

Shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops) are tended by farmers in all of the 23 U.S. coastal states using a variety of gear.

Like other industries striving to mitigate future resource insecurities, marine aquaculture is not risk-free in terms of potential environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts–and challenges remain to achieve a sustainable industry. Nevertheless, these challenges are well known and addressable by the U.S. and global research community.

The authors conclude that current offshore farming realities bode well for the future:

  1. There is a clear global imperative to sustainably produce more seafood to meet growing demand. The U.S. has the marine resources to become a major exporter, so long as U.S. law can be amended to grant offshore farmers a property right or security of tenure for sites in federal waters;
  2. U.S. ocean farmers work within a very complex and effective legal, regulatory, science-driven environment to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts;
  3. Farm level management decisions and federal and state regulatory frameworks have worked together to bring about environmentally friendly siting, operational, and production outcomes; and,
  4. The farming community and its advocates in government, universities, and industry recognize it is essential to reach out to decision-makers and the interested public, as well as critics, with the latest research and empirical results to present an accurate picture of risks and rewards to development.

Citation: Zajicek, P., Corbin, J., Belle, S., & Rheault, R. (2021). Refuting Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms, and Assumptions. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, 1-28.

Disclaimer: This post does not serve as an endorsement of the author’s opinion, nor does it express the views of the Coastal Society.

Benefits and Challenges of U.S. Offshore Wind Development for our Coastal Communities: A Coastal Connections Discussion

By Ashley Gordon, Melanie Perello, and Steven MacLeod

While only two small-scale offshore wind projects are currently operational along the East Coast, the U.S. offshore wind market is quickly expanding. In the coming decades, as much as 26 GW of wind power could be generated within existing offshore leases between Rhode Island and Virginia. To consider how this may affect coastal communities, The Coastal Society’s Coastal Connections session, held on February 26, 2021, focused on the benefits and challenges of offshore wind development. Moderated by Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island and Director of Extension with Rhode Island Sea Grant, a panel of experts highlighted the planning, economic, and environmental considerations associated with offshore wind project development for coastal communities, focusing on recent development along the East Coast.

Our panel of experts held a lively discussion, addressing questions about renewable energy and carbon emission life cycles, capacity building for supply chain and job creation, impacts to fisheries, benefits of regional partnership and marine spatial planning, and challenges for offshore wind development in other regions of the U.S.

You can watch a recording of the panel here, and highlights from each of the panelists’ presentations are provided below.

Mike Snyder, Ocean and Great Lakes Program Manager for the NY Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure

Mike Snyder provided an overview of the various types and scales of communities involved in offshore wind development. He recognized multiple challenges and opportunities that are nested across different scales related to fisheries, marine navigation, carbon emissions reductions, rate impacts to local taxpayers, recreation/public access, equity issues, and aesthetic impacts. In the state of New York, technical working groups have been created to address environmental, commercial, and recreational fishing, maritime, and jobs and supply chain considerations. Mike also emphasized the importance of an evolutionary approach to offshore wind development. (Presentation available here)

Matt Smith, Director of Offshore Wind for the Hampton Roads Alliance

Matt Smith discussed economic development opportunities associated with offshore wind. While the majority of the current supply chain capacity for offshore wind is in Europe, the Hampton Roads Alliance is focused on building a supply chain in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Matt reviewed the multi-year process for U.S. offshore wind projects, which includes siting and development, design and manufacture, construction and installation, and operations and maintenance. Two offshore wind projects, Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia project and Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk project, will be serviced by the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. These two projects combined are anticipated to provide power to 1.4 million homes, avoid about 10 million tons of CO2 emissions, and provide a $1.43 billion direct economic impact from construction alone on the regional economy. (Presentation is available here)

Laurie Kutina, Environmental Scientist at WSP

Laurie Kutina reviewed the environmental considerations associated with offshore wind development and the U.S. agencies and regulations involved, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She provided examples from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, which charted a course to the procurement of an initial 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity for the state. Anticipated environmental benefits to New York include 5 million tons of greenhouse gas reduction and air quality improvements, particularly in New York City and Long Island. Laurie also discussed wind turbine visibility considerations. In New York, the turbines of the closest planned wind farms would be located roughly 14 miles offshore and would be barely visible. Laurie highlighted opportunities that exist to engage in the offshore wind development process, including the NYSERDA offshore wind outreach webpage. (Presentation is available here)

For more information on previous and future sessions, visit the TCS Coastal Connections webpage. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the Coastal Connections series, please contact us at TCSConnections@thecoastalsociety.org.