Public input sought for state aquaculture report

04/12/2018

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking public input on a marine aquaculture programmatic environmental impact report that is scheduled for completion this year. The report will outline a framework for managing a program that would oversee the culturing of shellfish, algae and fin fish on state water bottom leases. The public scoping process will help guide the department in identifying a range of actions to be analyzed in the report, including environmental effects, methods of assessment, mitigation measures and alternative regulatory management frameworks, a press release stated. “If one guy jumps through the hoops, let’s let others do the same. Let’s not have everyone have to jump through every hoop every time,” Richard James, a local environmentalist, said of the program. The report is years in the making. In 2006, the state passed Senate Bill 201, which mandated that Fish and Wildlife “prepare programmatic environmental impact reports for existing and potential commercial aquaculture operations in both coastal and inland areas of the state.” But the process stalled because of a lack of funding that was only exacerbated during the recession. John Finger, one of the owners of Hog Island Oyster Company, said that though the program might lead to building blocks and help people in the future to understand how to access permits to grow shellfish, it is largely focused on finfish net farming, in which fish are raised in offshore nets. Randy Lovell, the aquaculture coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, said that on a purely biological level, finfish farming wouldn’t make sense off Marin’s coast. “You have to have the right kind of port facility,” he said. “There is not much compatibility with other ocean uses, and even if you aren’t thinking about temperature or salmon farming, which is prohibited in the state, the reality is, when you boil it down and you take down all these layers, it just doesn’t work here.” In addition to the programmatic report, Fish and Wildlife is working on several other projects in the area, including the development of best management practices for shellfish farming. Public scoping comments may be submitted through April 22 by email to AquaculturePEIR@wildlife.ca.gov or sent via mail to Marine Aquaculture PEIR – Scoping Comments, CDFW Aquaculture Program, 830 S St., Sacramento, CA  95811.