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Aquaculture Part of the Answer to Satisfying Demand

Floating shellfish bags.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Kelp farming. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

When most people think of fresh seafood from the Northeast, it's likely that lobster, scallops and cod come to mind. However in this region, aquaculture actually plays a big role in bringing fresh seafood to American consumers’ tables. In fact, in the Northeast, aquaculture production ranks third behind sea scallops and American lobster in value, generating about $161 million annually in revenues.  

Every state in the region is involved in aquaculture to some degree. In Delaware, where aquaculture had been banned in state waters, new  laws now promote aquaculture. In Maine, aquaculture is second only to lobster in fishery-related revenues. And in Connecticut, aquaculture generates more revenues than all wild caught stocks combined. 

Lowering a fish pen. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Farm-raised oysters.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Little Known History

Aquaculture has a long history in the Northeast region. For example, one of the first shellfish leases was in Rhode Island in the 1790s. In the 1800s, Massachusetts was operating a lobster hatchery. And, Gloucester raised and released cod, haddock, winter flounder and lobster. The culture of trout was pioneered in New York in the 1860’s. All of this work is the basis for the worldwide salmon farming industry today.

The Future

In the United States, the vast majority of our seafood is imported and half of this imported fish and shellfish come from aquaculture. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,  which is our guiding U.S. federal fisheries law, we have had some real success rebuilding wild fish stocks. The majority of the 47 federally managed wild fish stocks in the Northeast are not overfished. However, the demand for seafood, from a growing human population, will likely continue to outstrip the ocean’s ability to produce fish. Aquaculture has to be part of the solution to satisfy this demand. 

NOAA Fisheries Efforts in Aquaculture

Aquaculture can help us reduce our reliance on foreign imports and keep working waterfronts viable.  It can provide alternative means of economic support for fishing boats and their crews and create jobs for Americans. 

NOAA Fisheries has a long standing commitment to support the development of safe, sustainable aquaculture. Our Milford Laboratory, established in 1931, pioneered methods for raising shellfish. Today, the lab studies the culture of fish and shellfish to develop methods suitable for commercial use and for stock enhancement and restoration. Nearshore and offshore habitats are being studied to determine what characteristics make a habitat suitable for a particular species. NOAA Fisheries staff also play a key role in the review of aquaculture permits to ensure that safeguards are in place for species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and for protecting habitat.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries work in the region, contact our Aquaculture Coordinator Dave Alves at (978) 281-9210 or or visit our website

For information on funding opportunities to support aquaculture click here.