The National Aquaculture Association (NAA) has written Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging him to act upon the request by the State of Florida to establish a marine Aquaculture Opportunity Area in Florida waters as directed by Section 7 in Executive Order 13921, Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth.
In part the NAA commented:
- Florida has a rich and extensive marine aquaculture that today is valued at $72 million in farm gate sales with a capacity to expand. Florida is not new to aquaculture, its history dates to 1889 when coastal submerged lands were first leased for oyster culture.
- The State of Florida’s marine aquaculture leasing process is well-established and offers an applicant the security of tenure required to provide assurance to potential lenders, investors or insurers that there exists a bankable asset to support an offshore farm.
- In anticipation of offshore finfish aquaculture in Florida waters, in 2005 the State of Florida developed comprehensive marine net pen regulations and in 2018 initiated an analysis to identify coastal waters suitable for both finfish and seaweed production using offshore structures, such as net pens and longline arrays.
- Florida is also the home of preeminent public and private marine aquaculture education, research, job training, and extension programs to assist and support the development of offshore farming.
The NAA recommended the geographical extent of an Aquaculture Opportunity Area be defined in partnership with the State of Florida to trigger applications before initiating a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The current Florida Sea Grant College Program funded offshore net-pen education and demonstration project has yielded a draft marine net pen environmental assessment that should prove invaluable to developing a PEIS. However, no research or commercial production of finfish or seaweed has occurred in the northern Gulf of Mexico or Southern Atlantic.
For a copy of the NAA’s letter to Secretary Ross or for copies of a joint letter from Florida Senators Rubio and Scott and a letter from the Florida Aquaculture Association supporting the request, contact the NAA Office at email@example.com or 850-216-2400.