Stakeholder Engagement in the U.S. Offshore Aquaculture Permitting Process

On Monday May 11th at 13:30, Maria Pazandak will defend her masters thesis in Coastal and Marine Management at the University Centre of the Westfjords. The thesis presentation is open to the public on the University Centre YouTube Channel due current COVID-19 outbreak restrictions in place in Iceland.

The thesis is titled, “Stakeholder Engagement in the U.S. Offshore Aquaculture Permitting Process.”

The thesis advisors are Dr. Dorothy J. Dankel, Researcher at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Bergen, Norway, and David Goldsborough a senior lecturer and researcher in Marine Policy at Van Hall Larenstein (VHL), University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. The external reader is Susan Farady, J.D., Assistant Professor of Marine Affairs at the University of New England, United States.


The United States has been struggling with a growing seafood trade deficit, declining coastal community economies, and a stagnation in wild-caught fishery landings. One solution to this, which was already recognized half a century ago, is offshore aquaculture. Today, 40 years after the first aquaculture bill was passed, there is only one commercial offshore farm in U.S. Federal waters, a consequence of failed attempts of expansion. This research aims to document and compare the current regulatory regimes and permitting processes between the United States (West Coast and Southeast regions), Norway, and Panama, with a focus on stakeholder engagement. To do this, a literature review, literature analysis, and two theoretical framework applications were used.

Interviews and web-based literature reviews of the case study regions and countries found differences between regulatory regimes and permitting processes which have helped or hindered offshore aquaculture growth. The results confirm that the United States’ regulatory regime continues to negatively impact the ability for companies to establish offshore farms, and that there are regional differences in the permitting processes. The country comparison found that Norway and Panama have regulatory regimes that streamline the permitting process which have helped promote the growth of the offshore aquaculture industry. The results of the theoretical framework applications document how stakeholders are engaged and found that the current U.S. offshore aquaculture industry is socially unsustainable. This thesis identifies several recommendations to improve stakeholder engagement and the permitting process.


Maria Pazandak defends her masters thesis in Coastal and Marine Management on stakeholder engagement in the U.S. offshore aquaculture permitting process.