Opportunities and Barriers Facing Offshore Finfish Farming in the U.S.
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Opportunities and Barriers Facing Offshore Finfish Farming in the U.S.

  • Author(s): Montgomery, Kat
  • et al.

As the human population continues to grow, demand for seafood will rise. Aquaculture already accounts for half of the world’s seafood supply and it is the fastest-growing food sector. The greatest potential for future expansion is in open ocean marine aquaculture, i.e. offshore aquaculture. This report explores the potential opportunities for offshore finfish aquaculture in the United States, the key barriers that have inhibited industry development, and strategies for overcoming those barriers. Information was gathered through a thorough literature review and expert consultation via phone interviews, in-person meetings, and conference attendance. Representatives from the aquaculture industry, federal and state agencies, advocacy groups, scientific research institutions, and NGOs were consulted.


Six opportunities and five barriers were identified. Two key barriers to industry growth were analyzed: (1) the complex permitting process and (2) the public’s perception of offshore fish farming, which has prevented the industry from earning a social license to operate. To overcome the first of these barriers, industry proponents must decrease the time, cost, and risk involved with permitting through increasing coordination between government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels; engaging opposition groups to find compromise; and ultimately through passage of new federal legislation. To change public perception, proponents should clearly communicate the costs and benefits of offshore finfish aquaculture to the general public; advocate effectively for farming fish in the U.S. rather than abroad; collaborate with influential chefs to promote farmed fish as a sustainable seafood option; and get a commercial-scale offshore finfish pilot/demonstration farm into the water.

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