Environmental Law Institute to Recommend Best Practices for Sustainable Industrial Aquaculture

March 2022

(Washington, D.C.): The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is launching a new project in partnership with the Belfast, Maine-based Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area (FHLH) to identify best practices for sustainable, environmentally responsible industrial aquaculture. Aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry, representing 46% of the global fish market in 2018, and experts project two-thirds of all fish will be farmed by 2030.

“By drawing from the experiences of existing industrial-scale aquaculture, ELI’s analysis and recommendations can strengthen Maine’s laws, support its regulators, and address the priorities of our coastal communities when evaluating future projects,” said Andy Stevenson of the FHLH.

ELI will evaluate the regulatory landscape governing industrial aquaculture, both in the United States and in selected nations with a mature industry. The final report aims to educate policymakers and community members on best practices and make recommendations for practical and effective policies that can protect the environment while promoting economic growth.

“Environmentally and economically sustainable industrial aquaculture is achievable, given a clear set of state- and local-level environmental policies,” explained John Pendergrass, ELI’s Vice President for Programs and Publications. “This project will offer states and localities regulatory tools they can adapt according to their own set of circumstances while ensuring the industry moves forward in a sustainable manner,” he added.

Aquaculture, the commercial production of finfish, shellfish, and seaweed, holds great promise for meeting the global demand for sustainable protein while avoiding damage to vital marine ecosystems. Although industrial aquaculture has the potential to reduce negative impacts even further, very few successful models of large-scale, industrial aquaculture operations exist, in part due to the technological and biological challenges of these operations and their associated impacts on water, land, and energy use.

The final report will put forth a set of best practices at both the state and local level that address detrimental environmental and social impacts and ensure aquaculture projects constructed and operating under these policies are sustainable.

The report will also include a discussion of industrial aquaculture and the defining characteristics of sustainable practices, spotlight practices used in developing industrial aquaculture operations in the United States, and survey the existing regulatory framework in the state of Maine, as well as present case studies of other states and nations with historical familiarity of industrial aquaculture.

ELI and FHLH anticipate making the final report public in early 2023.

For additional information about the project, contact Cynthia R. Harris, ELI’s Deputy Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs.