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NCCOS Project

Development of Environmental Monitoring Guidelines for Marine Aquaculture

This project began in January 2012 and is Ongoing

We are assisting coastal managers and aquaculture farm operators with the development of environmental monitoring protocols for marine aquaculture. These protocols are helping coastal managers develop practices that support sustainable development of the aquaculture industry.

Why We Care
Good environmental monitoring of marine aquaculture activities allows managers to detect and assess the impacts of such operations on surrounding water quality, sediment, and biodiversity. Comparisons of environmental conditions prior to and during a production cycle and following harvest can be used to evaluate the impacts that aquaculture activities have (if any) on the marine environment. Monitoring is a powerful tool for ensuring aquaculture activities are conducted with minimal long-term impacts to marine ecosystems. The best monitoring protocols provide a standardized guide for the collection of data to adequately reflect environmental trends around a farm, without placing undue burden on farm operators.

What We Are Doing
As a prelude to developing national monitoring standards and protocols we are:

  1. Working directly with farm personnel to develop and implement site-specific monitoring plans that assess the environmental effects of fish cages.
  2. Evaluating the best monitoring strategies from countries with highly developed marine aquaculture industries.
  3. Applying monitoring data in mathematical impacts models, which guide site selection and understanding farm nutrient dynamics.

Benefits of Our Work
Working in partnership with operational and research farms enables us to develop realistic and meaningful monitoring strategies. Effective protocols allow for early detection of problems and can be used to adapt farm management to avoid severe impacts.

Next Steps
We will continue to work with farmers, modelers, and coastal managers to refine monitoring standards and protocols. Ultimately, these may be tailored to reflect regional or local environmental priorities and individual fish species. As the industry expands in the U.S., monitoring information will be useful in evaluating the short- and long-term effects of aquaculture activities in various marine environments and in determining where fish farms can be sited with the fewest impacts.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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