The expansion of aquaculture has come with numerous environmental, economic and human health impacts. Yet, because existing aquaculture industry have developed along shallow coastal waters, states, which have authority over waters within three nautical miles of their coasts, have been primarily responsible for regulating this industry. Consequently, the current U.S. aquaculture industry is managed by scattered local and state regulations, without any federal or congressional oversight.
Driven in part by lucrative sales of ocean fish in high-end markets, the decreasing availability of near-shore sites, and the opportunity to put the impacts of its activities beyond sight and out of mind, the aquaculture industry has been eyeing development farther out to the sea—past busy state waters and into the federally-regulated U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). However, there is currently no coordinated federal regulatory oversight over the permitting and leasing of federal waters for aquaculture. Instead, aquaculture development in federal waters is current governed by at least three federal agencies— the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)—each with jurisdiction over different aspects of aquaculture, and none acting under federal statutes that were written specifically with the problems of aquaculture in mind. A coordinated effort is necessary in order to responsibly account for the myriad of environmental, socioeconomic, and human health effects stemming from aquaculture.