NOAA Fisheries has published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register announcing the preparation of the environmental impact statement for the Aquaculture Opportunity Area (AOA) in the Gulf of Mexico. This seeks to identify and assess the impacts of multiple AOAs in federal waters in the gulf.
NOAA Fisheries is leading this effort in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and US Air Force, which will be cooperating agencies on the programmatic environmental impact statement. Other agencies may opt to join as cooperating or participating agencies as the process moves forward.
The Notice of Intent initiates a formal 60-day public scoping period for the programmatic environmental impact statement that will close on 1 August 2022. During this time, NOAA are seeking public comments to inform the scope and content of the programmatic environmental impact statement. Public comments can be submitted in writing as well as during three virtual public meetings that will be held on 8 June 2022, 16 June 2022 and 12 July 2022. Information and instructions on how to submit comments can be found on the NOAA Fisheries Gulf of Mexico AOA PEIS website.
The comments received during scoping will play a key role in helping NOAA determine the scope of the impact statement. NOAA Fisheries and its federal partners will use the best available science and feedback from the public – including industry, states, local communities, tribal governments, commercial and recreational fishing organisations, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the environmental NGO community, and other key stakeholders – to determine the number and location of alternative AOAs and the range of aquaculture types and systems we evaluate in the programmatic environmental impact statement.
“We greatly appreciate hearing from you during our public comment period, as well as your assistance in spreading the word to your constituencies about this important opportunity,” NOAA said in a press release.
See the Fishery Bulletin for more information.