Santa Barbara Mariculture Co. earns after-the-fact approval for changes to maritime farming operation.
[Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the correction of a spelling error. The print version of this report erroneously identified Santa Barbara Mariculture Co. as “Santa Barbara Maritime Co.” We apologize for the error.]
SANTA CRUZ — The California Coastal Commission’s support of an existing shellfish cultivation facility just off the coast of Santa Barbara was attached with a plea to support domestic maritime farming efforts.
Commissioners unanimously approved Santa Barbara Mariculture Company’s after-the-fact request to authorize a 26-acre shellfish cultivation venue already in operation, July 13.
“The existing and proposed facility would be used to plant, grow, and harvest Mediterranean mussels and Pacific oysters using of a system of 700-foot long submerged ‘longlines’ maintained in the water column at a depth of approximately 30-feet through a network of surface buoys and seafloor anchors,” Coastal Commission staff stated in a report to commissioners. “[Santa Barbara Mariculture Co.] anticipates a total annual harvest of 400,000-pounds of Mediterranean mussels and 250,000 oysters from the facility.”
Santa Barbara Mariculture Co. began culturing shellfish in 2005 about three-quarters of a mile off the coast of Santa Barbara and is currently seeking to triple the size of its operations, according to Coastal Commission staff. The maritime farming firm, however, had been operating without a Coastal Development Permit.
The expansion also calls for the use of 40 longlines for shellfish cultivation – Santa Barbara Mariculture Co. currently uses 12 such longlines. Oysters, for example, would be grown in plastic mesh bags, baskets and/or trays hanging from the longlines.
Bernard Friedman, who owns Santa Barbara Mariculture Co., told commissioners greater dialog is needed between regulators and maritime farmers so business operators such as himself know what’s expected of them.
“The complexity of getting a permit and operating a shellfish farm here in California is far from clear. I feel there are still huge gaps in dialog between the different permitting agencies,” Friedman told commissioners. “I feel you need to get together collectively to tell us shellfish farmers what you want and provide a vision and a pathway for our future.
“Where is California’s vision for responsible seafood production and who’s going to take that on,” Friedman continued.
Friedman added the United States should shift its focus away from foreign seafood production and instead support domestic maritime farmers such as him.
“We can’t spend our way to sustainability. Farming is a very valuable skill that needs to be nurtured,” Friedman told commissioners.
Coastal Commission staff pointed out Friedman’s company had failed to obtain the necessary authorizations to carry out its operations and also violated elements of the Coastal Act. The company, however, prepared its Coastal Development Permit application – which was approved by commissioners on July 13 – to obtain the necessary authorizations and establish regulatory compliance.
The expansion of Santa Barbara Mariculture Company’s production area would also have to be noted on updated NOAA charts in order to keep commercial and recreational fishers aware of the shellfish farming operation.
“The proposed three-times expansion (from 26-acres to 72-acres) of the [Santa Barbara Maritime Co.] facility may not be anticipated or expected by those commercial and recreational users of the project area that are familiar with the facility at its current size. As such, conflicts may arise initially while these users adjust to the new size and configuration of the facility,” Coastal Commission staff stated.
“To reduce the potential for this and for accidental loss or damage of fishing gear due to contact with the proposed facility, the commission is providing that [Santa Barbara Mariculture Co.] facilitate the update of NOAA nautical charts with the accurate location and configuration of the facility and provide advance notice of construction activities through a Notice to Mariners,” commission staff continued in its report to commissioners.
Commission staff confirmed efforts are already underway to coordinate regulatory oversight and streamline the permitting process. Staff with the state’s Fish and Game Commission, for example, drafted a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study and report on behalf of Santa Barbara Mariculture Co. in January to support Friedman’s efforts to obtain a water bottom lease off the Central California Coast.
The commission’s July meetings were held in Santa Cruz, July 11-13.