In October, Florida Sea Grant convened a small group of scientists, policy specialists, regulators, and stakeholders to discuss opportunities and challenges in the emerging field of restoration aquaculture. Restoration aquaculture is a relatively new area that merges the commodity-based production-oriented practices of aquaculture with an ecosystem services approach to environmental restoration.
The goal is to put aquaculture to work restoring the aquatic environment and create new revenue streams for commercial aquaculture in Florida. This can be traditional production aquaculture, such as oysters and clams, and can include other species that provide water quality and habitat benefits such as macroalgae, sponges, and seagrass. Because these two fields are distinct and are managed by different state agencies with different missions, the policy environment for restoration aquaculture has not been fully fleshed out.
To begin the discussion of how best to move the nascent field forward, Florida Sea Grant hosted the state’s first stakeholder workshop devoted exclusively to Restoration Aquaculture.
Even though the meeting occurred just two weeks after Hurricane Ian rampaged across Florida, representatives from the key Florida permitting and management agencies, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Commercial Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, joined representatives from the shellfish aquaculture and restoration industries and scientists and specialists from Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida to address obstacles and opportunities for restoration aquaculture in the current policy environment.
The workshop was supported by grants from NOAA and The Nature Conservancy, with additional resources provided by Florida Sea Grant. Tampa Bay Watch provided the venue for the meeting at its Tierra Verde facility on Tampa Bay. Florida Sea Grant’s Restoration Aquaculture program is led by FSG specialist Josh Patterson.