NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment through Aug. 5 on a draft programmatic environmental impact (PEIS) statement evaluating the potential environmental impacts of a management program for offshore aquaculture in federal waters of the Pacific Island Region.
The area includes the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, Cnmi in the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.
The draft PEIS analyzes the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of several management alternatives on the human, physical and biological environment. NOAA officials say they will consider all comment in any final PEIS and within future management action by NOAA Fisheries and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Any future aquaculture management program would be designed to regulate, manage and promote development of an environmentally sound and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in federal waters of the Pacific Islands Region. The program would also enable the National Marine Fisheries Service and the management council to provide enhanced planning, coordination and oversight of aquaculture in federal waters.
The draft PEIS proposes three possible management alternatives, including the status quo as the first alternative.
Alternative 2 proposes a limited aquaculture management program-based on current aquaculture activities in the Pacific Islands Region. It would also include aquaculture-specific permitting processes and allow culture of current fishery ecosystem plan (FEP) management unit species (MUS), though this alternative would limit aquaculture gear to types previously approved under other NMFS permits.
Alternative 3 proposes the same new management program outlined for alterative 2, but with longer permit durations, plus a broader scope of allowable species and gear types.
With either alternative 2 or 3 the FEPs and regulations would be amended to establish a limited entry aquaculture management program, to include permits, monitoring and operational requirements for commercial and research/innovation activities. These alternatives would also provide a streamlined path for navigating permitting processes with other relevant federal and state agencies.
The draft PEIS is available at www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0044