None are harvesting in federal waters, which are more than three miles offshore, and only one mussel farm operates in open sea in California, a well-regarded facility in state waters off Santa Barbara.
The group received more than $600,000 from NOAA’s Sea Grant’s National Aquaculture Initiative to prepare sophisticated materials required to help gain permits from the Army Corps, which leases the sea bottom, and the California Coastal Commission, among other agencies.
But the industry’s bumpy passage in the wake of Catalina Sea Ranch’s demise continues to bedevil projects: The Ventura farm was originally proposed within state waters — up to three miles offshore — in the Santa Barbara Channel but that was opposed by some commercial fishermen as it was in a halibut trawling zone.
Stymied, the Ventura Port District lobbied Assemblywoman Monique Limón, a Santa Barbara Democrat, depicting a beneficial commercial enterprise caught in a bureaucratic Catch 22 — not falling entirely under the purview of the state nor federal regulatory agencies.
“We urge the Commission to carefully consider that the proposed development will be the first of its kind in California and that it has the potential to set precedence for more offshore aquaculture in our state,” the ocean advocacy group Heal the Bay told the Coastal Commission during the Sea Ranch permitting process.