The Gulf of Mexico has long been the source of some of the nation’s best seafood. However, changing social and environmental pressures combined with increased demand for quality protein and an influx of foreign seafood products have changed the nature of wild harvest fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.
Recent policy changes in the region have paved the way for offshore aquaculture to fill a gap in seafood supply from the Gulf, not as an alternative to wild harvested fisheries but as complementary to them.
Offshore aquaculture offers new opportunity for current on-the-water professionals to utilize their existing skills and capital to earn a living while doing what they’ve always done to provide amazing Gulf of Mexico seafood to the nation’s consumer public. Aquaculture stands to be of enormous benefit to the region’s economy with proper implementation, which inherently requires the participation and input from the various stakeholders invested in the Gulf of Mexico seafood economy.
The goal of Marine Resource Education Program (MREP) for Aquaculture is to bring together influential stakeholders from the commercial and recreational fishing community, individuals from within the traditional fishery science & management governing bodies, with others from the academic and conservation communities to learn about the process of aquaculture for food production in U.S. waters, and develop a baseline understanding of the science, management and economics in support of future aquaculture endeavors in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
This program will be structured as two retreat-style workshops:
MREP Aquaculture Communities Tour is a Maine-based mix of broad discussion and state-wide tours which will allow participants to experience and learn about Maine’s mature and diverse aquaculture industry as an example of aquaculture in practice. The objective is to witness a variety of aquaculture operations in action and to learn from their operational trajectories and current economic platforms, including:
- Bangs Island Mussels
- Mook Seafarm’s oyster hatchery
- Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon hatchery and open-water salmon pens
Participants will experience first-hand the aquaculture community in Maine with a focus on identifying applicability and transfer of business practices through discussion of potential obstacles and opportunities for the Gulf of Mexico.
The MREP Aquaculture Science and Policy workshop is a Gulf of Mexico-based boardroom style meeting which will specifically examine the science and regulatory processes that provide for the permitting of fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico. Participants will:
- Examine the underlying Federal laws governing aquaculture
- Hear from individuals offering a State perspective
- Discuss the latest advances in science and research which support the industry
- Dig into the business economics of aquaculture in the GoM region.
Lastly, a hands-on management case study will provide direct application of the concepts learned to help participants understand how future proposed aquaculture installations will be evaluated and assessed under the GMFMC Aquaculture FMP
Neutral Educational Approach
MREP is a neutral, non-advocacy program aimed at fostering communication between ocean resource stakeholders, the science community, and resource management professionals. Workshops offer formal training in the science and management processes which govern ocean resource use, while also allowing participants to meet and network with the regulatory and science authorities who work in that arena. The aim is to empower on-the-water stakeholders, like fishermen and aquaculturists, to engage effectively in the regulatory processes that affect their livelihood, while at the same time providing them a pathway to share their insights, experiences, and concerns with scientists and managers.