In 2008, the Gulf Council submitted to NOAA a plan that set rules for offshore aquaculture development in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposal excluded brown, white, pink and royal red shrimp from the list of eligible species for offshore aquaculture because the SSA successfully argued that it would negatively impact U.S. shrimp stocks. Also in response to the SSA’s recommendations, the Council added new requirements that mandate the use of Electronic Logbook data on the shrimp fishery to identify and protect shrimp fishing grounds, and require NMFS to provide written notice and a public comment period when considering offshore aquaculture permit and siting applications to ensure that shrimpers have a voice in the process.
The plan was tacitly approved in 2009 when NOAA failed to take action within a mandatory timeframe. The Gulf Council offshore aquaculture plan must undergo a rule making process before permits can or will be issued. NOAA has indicated that it intends to postpone the rule making process until a national policy for marine aquaculture is completed.
In September 2009, NOAA responded to the Council’s plan by announcing its intent to develop a comprehensive national policy for sustainable marine aquaculture in the coming months.
The news came a week before the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife held an oversight hearing on offshore aquaculture that questioned whether NOAA has the authority under U.S. law to regulate aquaculture in federal waters. Both Congress and NOAA appear to be developing separate national policies for offshore aquaculture at this time. The SSA is working with the Committee and others in Congress on legislation introduced by California Representative Lois Capps which would establish a comprehensive national offshore aquaculture policy that includes many favorable provisions to protect the interests of wild stock fisheries including shrimp.