Federal Government Makes Aquaculture Siting Quest More Efficient

Identifying potential conflicts and areas where oceanographic and biophysical conditions are conducive to cultivated species growth are both critically important objectives for offshore aquaculture operations. A new mapping tool from the federal government, OceanReports, makes that search more productive.

With this tool, users can draw or select a potential location and have immediate access to over 100 data layers, including temperature, salinity, and depth information.

But that’s just the basics. For each data layer, infographics provide critical statistics about the data for the specified area of interest. Other uses include:

  • Conflict avoidance. Users can explore the Transportation and Infrastructure tab to determine if a location intersects or overlaps with ship anchorage areas, pilot boarding areas, major shipping lanes, or wrecks and obstructions.
  • Oceanographic conditions. Oceanic current speed and direction along with wave height, period, and direction aids users determine if aquaculture operations can withstand long-term (climatological) and episodic environmental conditions.
  • Nutrients. Nutrient data (including concentrations of nitrate, phosphate, and silicate at various depth levels) can be used to determine potential food for cultivated shellfish.

The OceanReports tool is easy-to-use. Users can turn on and off specific data layers to make a custom information map, with over 80 infographics in 6 various categorical themes: general information, energy and minerals, natural resources and conservation, oceanographic and biophysical, transportation and infrastructure, and economics and commerce. The tool was developed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

OceanReports is a web-based interactive tool for ocean mapping and planning. Created by NOAA and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the tool provides professional users and the general public with opportunities to explore the ocean from their own computer.

The tool provides specialized “ocean neighborhood analyses,” including maps and graphics, by analyzing more than 100 ocean datasets instantaneously.

U.S. ocean waters comprise nearly four million square miles, forming one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the world. When users outline any area in the U.S. EEZ using the OceanReports tool, they can get detailed information about habitats and species, industries in the area, potential hazards (such as undersea cables or shipwrecks), the economic value of ocean commerce, and other detailed oceanographic information.

OceanReports builds on more than a decade of data collection to transform how seemingly disparate ocean information can be delivered to the nation’s ocean and coastal industries, which add $320 billion in gross domestic product to the nation’s economy.

Mark Finkbeiner, a physical scientist at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management and co-lead of the tool development team.

“OceanReports data can help anybody with a stake in ocean-related planning and decision making.”

“The tool’s customized reports, complete with infographics, are easy to share in meetings and electronically. It’s a great planning tool for the aquaculture community.”

James Morris, Ph.D., one of the tool’s lead scientists who also specializes in aquaculture planning with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

“It’s exciting to see how OceanReports is used on the front lines of our seafood industry. OceanReports is now being used in all phases of the permitting process from planning to permitting and environmental review. Now within seconds, questions can be answered about conservation and spatial conflicts enabling smart siting of offshore aquaculture industries.”

Scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi are using it to navigate discussions with federal agencies regarding permitting of aquaculture operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in partnership with Department of Energy are using OceanReports to help the United States become a global leader in the production of marine biomass.

Researchers at the Fearless Fund, which helps provide venture capital for women of color, are using it to assess the technical and economic potential of growing macroalgae or seaweeds for biofuel and energy.


OceanReports Tool


For More Information about the OceanReports tool, contact James Morris, James.Morris@noaa.gov, (252) 723-3636.