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In 1995, several issues arose which prompted the New England Fishery Management Council (the Council) to assess its ability to administer siting proposals for aquaculture and other similar projects in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). At the request of the Aquaculture Committee Chairman, this author prepared a report for the Council entitled "Background Information and Recommendations for New England Fishery Management Council Development of an Aquaculture Policy and Management Strategy." Aquaculture is positioned to move into the EEZ on a large scale basis, and the Council has an opportunity to manage this growth. This Commentary will explore the legal authority of the Council to affect aquaculture and its corresponding management options. It then identifies issues that need to be considered when formulating a management strategy and concludes that Council action will benefit aquaculturists and traditional fishermen alike. This piece will start with a brief overview of the Council's legal authority vis-A-vis aquaculture. In discussing the legal authority over aquaculture, it is also important to bear in mind that no single federal agency has been delegated or statutorily charged with lead or overall responsibility to administer EEZ-based aquaculture. This situation adds to the confusion of project developers who must complete an array of permit applications and meet a variety of requirements, some duplicative, in order to undertake an EEZ-based aquaculture operation. Furthermore, unlike many of the coastal states, the federal government does not have the legal authority to lease, license, or grant to the aquaculturist the proprietary right to use what is in essence public property. As of September 1995, the Council had not made a formal decision to take an active role in aquaculture management, hence the title of this Commentary, “To Be or Not to Be Involved.”



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