Oregon’s small marine aquaculture sector is characterized by a handful of small-scale shellfish and seaweed operations in estuarine and inland coastal areas. Oregon has vast natural resources and a largely undeveloped coastline, which may provide ample opportunities for expansion of sustainable marine aquaculture. Increasing the cultivation of various seafood products has the potential to boost economic growth and food security in rural coastal areas and decrease pressure on wild-caught fisheries and imports as the demand for seafood grows. Oregon Sea Grant is situated to provide outreach, engagement and research to support coastal communities, including aquaculture operations. To provide relevant resources, current information regarding the needs and barriers to sustainable aquaculture expansion is needed. The purpose of this report is to bring awareness to the status of the Oregon marine aquaculture industry, identify barriers to expansion from perspectives of multiple sectors, and highlight opportunities to support sustainable expansion with informed regulations that reduce environmental impacts. This report is split into two parts.
Part 1 provides results of a 2021 needs assessment conducted via an online survey that targeted current and prospective marine aquaculture operators, agencies, researchers and others involved in the aquaculture industry. Part 1 provides the reader with the current status of the industry, barriers to entry and expansion, perspectives on Oregon aquaculture from multiple sectors, and recommendations based on survey results. Our results indicated that there is ample interest in expansion of currently grown species, such as Pacific oysters, and novel species for Oregon, such as kelp. The top perceived barriers to expansion among all surveyed sectors were permitting/regulations, lack of available space to lease, lack of external support/resources, climate/ecological constraints and technological constraints. The primary research needs selected by current researchers were effects of stressors on aquaculture, effects of aquaculture on the environment, and seaweed aquaculture. Current and prospective growers expressed a need for outreach materials on potential products, technologies and assistance with the permitting process.
Part 2 provides an overview of the regulatory framework for marine aquaculture in Oregon, various efforts that have been made in other states to streamline the permitting process for aquaculture operations and expand them to other habitats or systems, and recommendations for policies and tools that may be applicable to Oregon. This section was composed in response to results of the needs assessment and other reports that identified navigating permitting processes as a prominent barrier to aquaculture expansion. Part 2 includes a summary of policies and regulatory tools, and opportunities for policy change in Oregon that would streamline the permitting process. In this section, we propose the following six recommendations: 1) expand current processes for shellfish aquaculture permitting to all aquaculture species and systems; 2) provide detailed instructions for the permitting and leasing process; 3) review the current regulatory structure for redundancies; 4) explore new policies to enhance aquaculture products, environments and technologies; 5) provide funding for aquaculture outreach and research; and 6) develop a statewide aquaculture plan.