California Aquaculture Action Plan

The Ocean Protection Council, California Coastal Commission, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish and Game Commission, State Lands Commission, and California Department of Public Health are collaboratively developing an Aquaculture Action Plan that will provide a comprehensive, standardized framework and policy for sustainable aquaculture in California. The Plan will provide direction to improve the management of existing and future aquaculture operations and is the first step toward building a more sustainable, equitable, and profitable aquaculture industry in California. We anticipate releasing a draft for public review and feedback in Fall 2023, with completion targeted for the end of 2023.

California envisions a sustainable and robust commercial aquaculture industry that is informed by best available science; compatible with wild fisheries; guided by comprehensive planning, permitting, and collaboration; causes minimal harm to the environment; protects public access; supports living wages and equitably grows the state’s economy.

The Action Plan is centered around three principal goals, reflecting the priorities outlined in the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Marine Aquaculture. It will identify current challenges and knowledge gaps and include clear milestones, timelines, and implementation actions. The following provides a high-level overview of the Plan’s goals and content:

Aquaculture Action Plan Goals

Goal 1: Improving California’s aquaculture governance framework through increased interagency coordination and transparency

This section will present an overview of challenges, inefficiencies, and barriers in the current governance/regulatory landscape. It will discuss structural issues, existing hurdles to both interagency coordination and enforcement, and bottlenecks in regulatory compliance, as well as propose specific actions to address each issue with an associated timeline for completion.

Goal 2: Ensuring environmental sustainability and public safety

This section will summarize the state of aquaculture in California and current environmental context, including an overview of marine aquaculture operations in the state, current farmed taxa, siting requirements, and potential impacts of climate change. This section will also specify desired performance outcomes, with an emphasis on minimizing the environmental impact of aquaculture while maximizing potential benefits. Additionally, this section will explore and propose methods (e.g., best management practices) to incentivize proactive compliance, including outlining monitoring data needs that ensure compliance, identifying areas of avoidance, and contain a table of agency actions intended to enhance regulatory compliance and efficient oversight, that increases environmental sustainability with a timeline for completion.

Goal 3: Identifying pathways to facilitate expansion of sustainable marine aquaculture

This section will discuss common hurdles in aquaculture development faced by applicants (including permitting, farm siting, equity) and potential challenges to overcoming each hurdle. It will also identify agency capacity needs for aquaculture-related programs, outline challenges in information gathering/dissemination and managing public expectations, as well as provide guidance for permitting, monitoring, enforcement, and compliance. This guidance will include both internal (agency-facing) and external (public-facing) recommendations along with specific actions and timelines for adoption. This section will also propose methods to provide knowledge and resources for potential aquaculture operators, highlight research needs or areas for further investment, and specify a plan for identifying and implementing future improvements.