Aquaculture North America

NOAA introduces Aquaculture Science Advice Handbook

June 21, 2023
By Matt Jones

NOAA’s new Aquaculture Science Advice Handbook includes a great deal of information for regulators, such as this flowchart which shows a draft process for developing aquaculture science advice with detailed recommendations.
Photo: NOAA

With growing interest in marine aquaculture development in the United States, the need for regulators to have access to accurate scientific data and advice has become even more important. With that in mind, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have introduced the Aquaculture Science Advice Handbook: Policies, Processes, Resources, and Opportunities.

“It’s providing information to regulators at the state level, federal level and sometimes the local level,” says Dr. Ken Riley, chief of NOAA’s science branch. “Aquaculture itself can be regulated and managed in many different ways at those different levels, and we want to communicate how our scientists are using their expertise in helping inform policy and management and regulation of aquaculture.”

Aquaculture permitting is under the auspices of several different federal and state agencies. While Riley notes that NOAA itself is not directly involved, the shared knowledge of their multi-disciplinary team of scientists and engineers is often used as part of that decision making process.

National-level guidance of this type has not previously existed. The 54-page handbook provides best practices and successful models for aquaculture science advice development and describes laws and policies around aquaculture permitting as it relates to scientific advice.


It would be tempting, in the context of ongoing criticisms of open-net pen fish farming (which have been described as lacking a basis in science by many in the industry), to see the handbook as an attempt to address misinformation. However, that is not the purpose of the handbook.

“We’re not using this to dispel any myths, beliefs or misinformation about aquaculture,” says Riley. “We’re just stating that when we publish our science, its based on the best available information that we have at the current time.”

The Aquaculture Science Advice Handbook is available on NOAA’s website.

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