Over the last few months I've had the pleasure of meeting with many of you at events and conferences. Gatherings like Aquaculture America, The North American Seafood Expo, and the Sea Web Summit are significant because of both the number and breadth of professionals who attend. This year, we asked you (including industry leaders, researchers, policy makers, state officials, chefs, and environmental groups) for your ideas about how to expand aquaculture production in the U.S. and address the seafood trade deficit. Creating domestic jobs, reducing America's reliance on seafood imports, creating export opportunities for U.S. seafood, and healthy oceans are objectives of the Administration. During his confirmation hearing Secretary Ross expressed a desire for the nation to become more seafood self-sufficient and maybe one day a net exporter. NOAA Fisheries' Office of Aquaculture is working toward a more seafood self-sufficient nation by developing and encouraging policies, science, and infrastructure that will allow American aquaculture to meet the increased seafood demand driven by population growth, shifting demographics, and interest in healthy foods. 

Regulatory streamlining is one area we're working on: programmatic approaches to permitting in state and federal waters, and getting science information to federal and state agencies. The Administration has asked for public input on how to improve and make regulations and permit review more efficient. For more information visit the Federal Register. Specific Executive Orders of interest are: 
  • E.O.13766, "Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects"
  • E.O. 13771, "Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs"
  • E.O. 13777, "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda"
  • E.O. 13783, ''Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth"
  • E.O. 13795, "Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy" 
Here at NOAA, we continue to develop new aquaculture methods and technologies, and key science products that contribute to a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of marine aquaculture. Recently, Milford Laboratory staff received national recognition for their work in oyster probiotics, while other NOAA staff worked to improve fish feeds, develop sablefish aquaculture, examine shellfish farming and habitat interactions, and create an aquaculture planning portal to help coastal managers with aquaculture siting. 

Congress allocated increased funding for NOAA aquaculture research in the Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Spending Bill. Below we provide some highlights of how NMFS is using these funds to help meet our nation's seafood goals.
We will continue to strive to use public funds wisely and allocate them to the highest priority uses (as outlined in NOAA's and NOAA Fisheries' annual priority documents, NOAA Fisheries Aquaculture Strategy, advice from NOAA's Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, and Congressional direction). Many thanks to all of you for your input and advice which is reflected in these priorities and the work and partnerships we undertake.

Best wishes,


Dr. Michael Rubino
Director, NOAA Office of Aquaculture
Michael Rubino signature
Highlights of the NOAA Fisheries Fiscal Year 17 Research Budget 

NOAA Fisheries is committed to maintaining and strengthening the agency's aquaculture science capabilities within the budget resources allocated. We are completing work on an external peer review of NOAA internal aquaculture science efforts conducted by experts from other federal agencies, industry, and other NOAA programs-a report will be available later this year.
NOAA received increased funding for aquaculture for fiscal year (FY) 2017. The NOAA Fisheries aquaculture budget line increased from $6.3 million in FY16 to $9.3 million for FY17; and the Sea Grant aquaculture grant program increased from $9 million in FY16 to $9.5 million in FY17.  
Some highlights of the NOAA Fisheries FY17 research budget are:
  • Off-bottom oyster research: We are spending over $1 million on off-bottom oyster projects. At NOAA science centers the funding will support topics such as oyster disease, impacts of ocean acidification, and how oyster aquaculture provides habitat and ecosystem services such as filtering water. In addition, we provided funds through the Gulf of Mexico Marine Fisheries Commission to support external research in this area.
  • Regional Pilot Projects (Grants): NOAA is using much of its FY17 increase budget increase to provide $1.5 million to the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissions to support regional pilot projects. We will work with the Commissions and other stakeholders in coming weeks to begin developing ideas for specific projects.
  • Regional Pilot Projects (internal research): We continue and expand funding research in existing areas of industry interest for commercial development, such as sablefish (aka black cod), and California yellowtail. In addition, the increased FY17 funding allowed us to invest over $0.5 million in new research areas with strong industry interest, notably seaweed farming in Alaska and the northeast, and blue mussel farming in the northeast.  
  • Tools for Management: We expanded our support for tools for coastal managers to make informed siting decisions. This includes increased support for the National Ocean Services' efforts to develop maps, predictive models, and other siting tools; and continued support for developing models to avoid potential genetic impacts of farmed species on wild counterparts.
  We've also been successful, working in partnership with many of you, at leveraging additional funds for aquaculture. Some notable examples this year:
  • Dr. Mike Rust worked with the Department of Energy to design a $25 million grant program for macro algae culture (proposals currently in review). DOE also plans to transfer $3 million to Dr. James Morris' lab at the National Ocean Service's Beaufort Laboratory for aquaculture siting work for potential seaweed farms. 
  • The Washington State legislature in July approved $450,000 of funding to support about half of the annual operating costs during the next three years of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund's work at the Kenneth Chew Oyster Research Hatchery located at NOAA Fisheries Manchester Lab. NOAA will also provide funds this year for facilities costs at the hatchery. The PSRF conducts oyster and abalone research and restoration work at the Lab under a Cooperative Research and Development Act Agreement with NOAA. Congratulations to Betsy Peabody and the PSRF team.
Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative Launch 
Matunuck Oyster Bar staff at the Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative Launch.

Aquaculture and shellfishing are multi-million dollar industries in Rhode Island, but there are challenges to both industries' continued growth. Addressing those challenges and strengthening a partnership among state officials and agencies, the shellfish industry, researchers, and academia is the focus of the state's new Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative, launched at an event April 24 at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography . Attendees included Rhode Island's Congressional delegation, the governor, and NOAA staff. The Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative is part of a nationwide shellfish initiative started in 2011 by NOAA. 

FDA Approves Taurine for Fish Feed 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Taurine as an ingredient for fish feed providing fish farmers with more options to use plant-based ingredients in fish feeds while reducing the country's reliance on feed made of other fish. The new approval in the United States opens up more options for feed, which are safe, sustainable, and provide a cost savings that may be passed on to consumers. The approval is a result of the joint  NOAA-USDA Aquaculture Feeds Initiative  that identified taurine as a key need in fish feeds. Dr. Ron Johnson, at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and others demonstrated that taurine is an essential nutrient for some cold water marine fish, and developed dietary guidelines.

With this data, scientists and a group of nutritionists and industry representatives petitioned the FDA to allow taurine as an ingredient in fish feed. With FDA's approval of taurine, aquaculture feeds with plant ingredients could cost farmers less than half of what it costs to feed fish a fish based diet.
Milford Laboratory Staff Win Department of Commerce Silver Medal for Oyster Probiotic 

NOAA Fisheries Milford Laboratory staff members Diane Kapareiko, Dorothy Jeffress, and Gary Wikfors were honored for creativity, persistence, and scientific rigor during the Department of Commerce 68th Annual Honor Awards ceremony. The team received a silver medal for discovering a probiotic bacterial strain living within a healthy, adult oyster that protects larval oysters from disease, documenting the mechanism by which probiotic effects occur, and ensuring that the strain is safe for use by shellfish hatchery workers. These scientific accomplishments led to a formal partnership with a company to explore commercialization of the probiotic strain. Successful commercialization will provide an environmentally friendly way to improve oyster hatchery production. 

Video: NOAA Fisheries and Envera Corp Collaborate for Oyster Health
Video: NOAA Fisheries and Envera Corp Collaborate for Oyster Health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture, invites science-based small business firms to submit research applications under this program solicitation entitled "Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) - Phase I, Fiscal Year 2018."

The Aquaculture topic area aims to develop new technologies that will enhance the knowledge and technology base necessary for the expansion of the domestic aquaculture industry as a form of production agriculture. Emphasis is placed on research leading to improved production efficiency and increased competitiveness of private sector, commercial aquaculture in the United States. Studies on commercially important, or potentially important, species of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants from both freshwater and marine environments are included. View the full funding opportunity a nnouncement here

Applications must be received by  5 p.m.  Eastern Time on  October 5, 2017 .

NOS   Releases Coastal Aquaculture Planning Portal

NOAA's National Ocean Service's science program has launched the  Coastal Aquaculture Planning Portal (CAPP) , a tool designed to assist in the planning and siting of coastal aquaculture facilities. Developed in partnership with NOS's Digital Coast, the CAPP features more than 20 tools that have applications for planning and siting of aquaculture operations and industries. It was specifically designed to assist managers, planners, and industry with siting aquaculture facilities in locations best suited for aquaculture and that avoid conflicts with other uses and sensitive ecological areas. The portal features tools such as CanVis that provide users with the ability to forecast seascape change due to aquaculture, a sea-level rise viewer allows the prediction of rising sea level on farming and management practices, and the habitat priority planner helps the user identify sensitive habitats that need to be avoided during aquaculture siting.

To learn more about NOS's coastal aquaculture siting and sustainability efforts,visit  https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/research/scem/marine_aquaculture/
Collaborative Workshop Seeks Healthy Eelgrass and Shellfish Farms
Well-spaced oyster longlines allow eelgrass to flourish in between them in Washington's Samish Bay. Photo: Laura Hoberecht/NOAA Fisheries

Native eelgrass provides valuable habitat for young salmon and other fish and is considered a barometer of healthy tidelands. Shellfish aquaculture is also valuable, contributing about $200 million annually to Washington's economy.

About 100 shellfish growers, scientists, and agency and tribal representatives attended a workshop at NOAA Fisheries in Seattle in mid-April to work towards eelgrass management practices that are not only consistent, but also based on sound science and practical for shellfish growers. Learn more about the workshop
Advances in US Sablefish Aquaculture
NOAA scientists Bill Fairgrieve and Adam Luckenbach hold sablefish from a trial that was completed during the first week of May 2017, when the scientists made their first harvest of mature fish raised in net pens. Photo by Edward Hayman
NOAA scientists Bill Fairgrieve and Adam Luckenbach hold sablefish from a trial that was completed during the first week of May 2017, when the scientists made their first harvest of mature fish raised in net pens Photo: Edward Hayman

NOAA reached a milestone in May with its first harvest of an all-female generation of mature sablefish. This is a landmark achievement as it makes the farming of this tasty, buttery fish on a commercial scale within the grasp of US fish farmers. The fish harvested weighed an average of 5.47 lbs each, for a total of 20,227 kgs (roughly 44,593 lbs). Read more from the Aquaculture America story

FFAR will invest up to $5 million for research that will improve economic opportunities for U.S. farmers and increase the supply of domestically-produced, nutritious foods. The Foundation is committed to supporting research on the following topics:

    • Genomics and breeding of understudied shellfish species, including mussels, clams, scallops for improved performance parameters.
    • Hatchery research, including best early stage life cycle production practices for commercial fish.
    • Market-based analyses for new species and/or production regions.
Applications available- July 10, 2017
2017 Sea Grant Aquaculture Initiative Update 
Finfish aquaculture system. Cindy Sandoval NOAA
Finfish aquaculture system. Cindy Sandoval/NOAA Fisheries 

The 2017 Sea Grant Aquaculture Initiative has now concluded and the final selections are currently under review by the NOAA Grants Management Division before the winners are announced later this summer.

This year's Initiative included two competitive funding opportunities. The first competition was focused on projects that may be earlier in the exploratory/development phase that show promise to contribute to the expansion of sustainable marine, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture in the United States. The second competition was focused on projects that show great promise to increase aquaculture production in the near future by clearly addressing major constraints, barriers, or hurdles limiting United States marine, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture production.

A panel of experts drawn from industry, government and academia were convened to review the finalists for each competition in May and June. Awards are anticipated to start no later than September 1, 2017.
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