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NOAA's 10-Year Marine Aquaculture Plan

Aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world.

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Aquaculture for sustainable fish protein Aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world. It is also a significant source of protein for people in many countries, including the United States. Globally, nearly half the fish consumed by humans is produced by fish farms. This worldwide trend toward aquaculture production is expected to continue. At the same time, demand for safe, healthy seafood is also expected to grow.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United States ranked 10th in total aquaculture production in 2004, behind China, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Chile, and Norway. The United States imports significant volumes of marine aquaculture products from these and other countries, resulting in annual seafood trade deficit of over $9 billion.

Total U.S. aquaculture production is about $1 billion annually, compared to world aquaculture production of about $70 billion. Only about 20% of U.S. aquaculture production is marine species.

The largest single sector of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry is molluscan shellfish culture (oysters, clams, mussels), which accounts for about two-thirds of total U.S. marine aquaculture production, followed by salmon (about 25 percent) and shrimp (about 10 percent). Current production takes place mainly on land, in ponds, and in coastal waters under state jurisdiction. Recent advances in offshore aquaculture technology have resulted in several commercial finfish and shellfish operations in more exposed, open-ocean locations in state waters in Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico.

NOAA's 10-Year Plan for Marine Aquaculture Available Online

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finalized and adopted the 10-Year Plan for Marine Aquaculture on October 30, 2007. The plan is intended to guide the agency as it works toward establishing marine aquaculture as an integral part of the U.S. seafood industry and as a viable technology for replenishing important commercial and recreational fisheries. The plan provides specific goals for the NOAA Aquaculture Program and anassessment of the challenges the agency will face in its effort to reach its goals.

This initiative is based on sustainable commercial marine fisheries complemented by robust domestic aquaculture production.

NOAA's overall aquaculture efforts are focused on creating domestic supply to meet the nation’s growing demand for seafood; establishing aquaculture and as a viable technology for replenishment of important commercial and recreational marine fisheries; and creating opportunities for the United States to engage the global aquaculture community through scientific and technological exchange.

To download an electronic copy of the plan, go to:


National Marine Aquaculture Initiative (NMAI)

Since 1998, NOAA has funded a total of $15 million through the National Marine Aquaculture Initiative (NMAI), a competitive grants program coordinated by the NOAA Aquaculture Program and NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

The NMAI supports research to boost the production of commercially and recreationally valuable marine shellfish and finfish species in the United States. Past projects have responded to key scientific, engineering, environmental, and economic questions for aquaculture. For example, NMAI has funded studies of candidate species, health and nutrition, best management practices, ecosystems monitoring and management, engineered production systems, and legal and operational frameworks.


National Aquatic Animal Health Plan

NOAA is also working to address technological barriers through a planning process with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior to develop a National Aquatic Animal Health Plan. The plan, which will be completed in 2008, will provide protection for the nation's cultured and wild aquatic resources, facilitate safe commerce of live products, and improve the availability of diagnostic laboratories for aquaculture.

SOURCE: NOAA Animal Health Plan

Other NOAA Aquaculture Programs

NOAA also has marine aquaculture research capabilities at in-house laboratories within the Fisheries Service and the Ocean Service, and research and extension capabilities through state Sea Grant Programs.

Other federal agencies under the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Interior, along with academic and research institutions are also investing in research to address technological challenges.

Funding Opportunities

As a Federal agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administers a variety of competitive grant programs and other financial assistance programs targeted to the development of sustainable aquaculture in the United States.

Areas of interest include aquaculture research, technology development, and the commercial development of the domestic aquaculture industry.

  • The National Marine Aquaculture Initiative - A national competitive grant program coordinated by NOAA, the National Marine Aquaculture Initiative encourages demonstration projects and research targeted to the development of sustainable marine aquaculture in the United States.
  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program - NOAA's SBIR Program supports creative advanced research in scientific and engineering areas, including aquaculture, and encourages the commercial application of Government-funded research. SBIR awards lead to major breakthroughs, innovative technologies, and next-generation products and processes.
  • NOAA Fisheries Finance Program - NOAA Fisheries Financial Services Division manages a national financial assistance program in the form of direct loans, a tax-deferred capital construction fund, and vessel and gear loss and damage. Aquaculture businesses are eligible for loans for capital construction and certain other investment costs.

Programs Offered Through Other Federal Agencies

  • USDA-Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) - CSREES offers a variety of funding opportunities through competitive grants, cooperative agreement programs, and other funding mechanisms.
  • USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program - The USDA's SBIR aquaculture program enhances the knowledge and technology base for the continued growth of the domestic aquaculture industry.


Establishing Regulatory Parameters

Business needs regulatory certainty to make sound investment decisions and obtain financing. Currently, there is no way to obtain a permit for aquaculture in federal waters under existing U.S. laws and regulations. To address this regulatory gap, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce transmitted to Congress the National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007. The Act would provide the Secretary of Commerce the necessary authority to establish a regulatory framework for aquaculture in U.S. federal waters and authorize research for all types of marine aquaculture.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| agriculture | food | fisheries |


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