Planning shellfish aquaculture 

Planning for Sustainable Shellfish Aquaculture: Identifying Current Activities, Public Perceptions, Conflicts, and Compatibilities

This research combines geospatial data and an examination of the social dimensions of shellfish aquaculture to ensure that it is fully integrated into coastal and marine spatial planning along the U.S. West Coast.

Principal Investigator

Bobbi Hudson, Pacific Shellfish Institute

Co-Principal Investigators:

Teri King, University of Washington, Washington Sea Grant

David Landkamer, Oregon Sea Grant Extension, Oregon State University

Paul Olin, California Sea Grant Extension; UCSD/Scripps Institution of Oceanography

John Tarnai, Washington State University, Social and Economic Research Center


With funding from a national strategic initiative, Washington Sea Grant-supported researchers have been combining geospatial data on commercial aquaculture with research into its social dimensions to support coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) along the West Coast. The research team assembled more than a dozen GIS map layers of shellfish activities (e.g., commercial farms, classified shellfish growing areas, established tribal harvest areas), relevant infrastructure (e.g., docks, ramps, refrigeration, storage, processing, and export-ready cargo facilities), and federal, state, and local regulations in Washington, Oregon, and California. In conjunction with a second national aquaculture grant, the team has been exploring two overarching questions: “Are these communities opposed to or supportive of continued or expanded shellfish aquaculture?” and “What are the implications for aquaculture planning and development?” Project staff and partners sent a survey probing community views of expanded shellfish aquaculture to more than 4,000 residents.

Research Updates

National Sea Grant-supported researchers assembled 32 GIS map layers, including metadata, showing nearshore growing and harvest areas, relevant infrastructure such as docks and refrigeration, and federal, state and local regulations in Washington, Oregon and California. They surveyed 4,000 residents and 865 government, industry and conservation representatives in 10 coastal counties in the three states regarding two fundamental questions: Do their communities oppose or support shellfish aquaculture? What are the implications of that opposition or support for aquaculture planning and development?

GIS data were incorporated into the Oregon Coastal Atlas and the West Coast Environmental Response Management Application, ensuring that shellfish will be included in spill response. The data also is being incorporated into Washington’s and California’s ocean use atlases. Surveys elicited many responses and extensive written comments, revealing substantial support for shellfish aquaculture: four-and-a-half times as many respondents favor more nearshore production as do not. These findings have been presented at local, national and international aquaculture forums, and a synopsis was disseminated to 900-plus stakeholders. Armed with this data, growers can plan more proactively — 20 are already modifying their practices based on project results.