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Distribution of options for Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in the US federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The red circles represent the options, but do not reflect the size of the options. Map: NOAA.
Distribution of options for Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in the US federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The red circles represent the options, but do not reflect the size of the options. Map: NOAA.

A further step towards enabling offshore fish farming in the United States will be made tomorrow when 19 potential sites for two Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) will be examined in an update for stakeholders held online.

The US Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hosting the meeting which will provide an overview of the contents of two “Aquaculture Atlases” for the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern California Bight.

The Atlases provide the most comprehensive marine spatial analyses ever developed for any US ocean space, using 203 data layers to narrow down the list of potential sites to 10 off the coast of California and nine in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nine from 29,839

In the Gulf of Mexico, the nine AOA options identified (see map above) were selected from 29,839 possibilities of the highest scoring ocean spaces from the West, Central, and East study areas.

In the Southern California Bight, modelling results identified eight AOA options in the area off Santa Barbara and two AOA options off Santa Monica (see map below) from a list of 296 highest scoring ocean spaces in the two northern study areas.

Next steps

During tomorrow’s meeting NOAA staff will discuss next steps as the agency works toward the development of the programmatic Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for the two AOAs, and answer AOA related questions from the public.

The 485-page Aquaculture Atlas for the Southern California Bight can be read and downloaded here, and the 545-page Atlas for the Gulf of Mexico here.

Tomorrow’s meeting is from 1pm-2pm Eastern time (6pm-7pm GMT).  

Distribution of options for Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in US federal waters of the Southern California Bight. Red circles represent the options, but do not reflect the size of the options. Map: NOAA.
Distribution of options for Aquaculture Opportunity Areas in US federal waters of the Southern California Bight. Red circles represent the options, but do not reflect the size of the options. Map: NOAA.