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Endangered Species Act Section 7 and Aquaculture

GARFO’s Protected Resources Division (PRD), works closely with the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the action agency responsible for ESA Section 7 consultation on aquaculture projects that are permitted under section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and/or section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Our agency recognizes and supports the role marine aquaculture has to play in creating employment and business opportunities, providing safe, sustainable seafood, and supporting healthy ocean populations and ecosystems. In PRD Section 7, we are also engaged with research and innovative ocean engineering solutions to aid in the development of sustainable aquaculture, while also achieving the conservation and recovery goals of our threatened and endangered species.

When the Corps approaches us to consult with them on a new aquaculture project permit application, we provide them with information on how best to avoid or minimize the project’s impact on ESA listed species of whales, sea turtles, and fish and any designated critical habitat.

Risks to Listed Species

In the Greater Atlantic Region, aquaculture projects range broadly and can include projects such as nearshore shellfish aquaculture to offshore kelp aquaculture and a variety of other types of projects. Given the diversity of aquaculture operations and settings, there are a variety of potential impacts on listed species. One common consideration is the risk of protected species entanglement in gear (e.g. vertical lines that extend from the gear to the surface could pose entanglement risk to  turtles and whales). Another is the conversion of benthic habitat used by foraging sturgeon and sea turtles. Incorporating modest changes in aquaculture designs, including the location and engineering of the harvesting gear, may reduce these and other threats to listed species and their critical habitat.

It is important to note that we do not have required management measures that apply to all aquaculture projects. Because each project is unique, we evaluate each project on a case-by-case basis taking into account the area that the project will affect (e.g., the project’s action area), the species that may be affected, what we know about the proposed gear types, etc.

Ways to Mitigate Risks of Aquaculture

Here are some measures we may suggest if these animals are in your action area: (To learn more about where and when we expect listed species to occur, see our ESA Listed Species and Critical Habitat Maps):

Sea turtles and sturgeon:

Whales:

Factors to Consider

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The adoption of risk reduction techniques depends on the type of aquaculture gear, likelihood of listed species or critical habitat presence, what is known about the feasibility of potential gear modifications, and technical constraints of the project itself.

Our Section 7 Consultations

After we exchange information with the Corps on the specifics of each project and collaborate on ways to minimize effects to ESA listed species and their critical habitat, we consult on the final proposed project as described by the Corps. The proposed project, may or may not include our recommendations depending on the Corps’ permit conditions. If the Corps concludes that the project is not likely to adversely affect ESA-listed species or their critical habitat and we concur with that determination, there will be an informal consultation. If the Corps concludes that the project is likely to adversely affect ESA-listed species or their critical habitat and we concur, there will be a formal consultation. The Corps is responsible for compiling the best available information on the effects of the project on ESA listed species and their critical habitat and submitting that information to us. We will use that information as a basis to develop a biological opinion.

As aquaculture in our region grows, we anticipate that there will be many more opportunities to work with industry on new technologies and techniques to develop sustainable aquaculture while ensuring the protection of ESA-listed species and critical habitat.

Last Updated: October 25, 2017