Regional Aquaculture Small Grants Program
The purpose of the Aquaculture Program is to encourage and create partnerships between the seafood industry and community partners in an effort to develop, validate and deploy economically and environmentally sustainable aquatic farming techniques and regional business practices to grow U.S. domestic seafood production.
In 2016, a small grants program was established through a Cooperative Agreement between NOAA Office of Aquaculture and the GSMFC with the goal of advancing the potential development and implementation of an off-bottom oyster farming industry in the Gulf using off-bottom oyster culture methods (culture of oysters in cages suspended in the water column or in cages placed on the bottom). Over time, NOAA continued to work through all three of the interstate commissions to expand the oyster work to include other species with culture potential and encourage the development of offshore aquaculture. These pilot projects were intended to bring in other novel or underutilized species and demonstrate the ability to acquire the necessary permits and approvals to begin a commercial venture in the Gulf of Mexico region. Further work was initiated to focus on improving oyster genetics and breeding for the purpose of enhancing seed production and providing farmers with stock suitable for their individual needs and improve survival.
To date, in total has been distributed or committed through the four grant opportunities made available through NOAA and the Gulf Commission. Utilizing the regional commissions as partners to fund and administer these regional aquaculture projects has resulted in most of the funds going directly into production and research activities where they are needed.