Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Ecosystem Science and Policy (Graduate)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Daniel D. Benetti

Second Committee Member

Kenneth Broad

Third Committee Member

Gary Hitchcock

Fourth Committee Member

Jennifer Jacquet

Fifth Committee Member

Felix Mormann


Fisheries and aquaculture policy in the United States exhibits a peculiar duality. Commercial fishing is functionally open-access, heavily subsidized, and regulated by a federal bureaucracy staffed in part by fishing industry representatives. Marine aquaculture, in contrast, is effectively forbidden. Today there are no functioning fish farms anywhere in the federal waters of the United States, largely due to a regulatory environment that discourages applications for aquaculture permits. This bifurcated policy does not seem to be dependent on any specific environmental or economic rationale. Instead, this policy appears to be the product of a series of individual assumptions and policy choices that may have been initially reasonable, but have since accreted into an unworkable whole. This dissertation consists of a series of unique, but thematically connected research projects designed to examine current U.S. policy on aquaculture and fishing in the United States, and the assumptions that inform that policy, with the goal of informing a more consistent treatment for these two modes of seafood production. Chapter 1 introduces the dissertation by reframing the discussion of aquaculture and fishing, by examining the global importance of aquaculture as a productive system, and by discussing the blurring line between fishing and aquaculture. This chapter also provides a roadmap for the rest of the dissertation. Chapter 2 examines the federal fisheries management system in light of historical reality and public choice theory. Chapter 3 describes the nutrient footprint of an offshore aquaculture facility. Chapter 4 uses disclosures from the federal lobbying disclosure system to examine the patterns of advocacy around aquaculture and fishing in the U.S. Congress and administrative agencies. Chapter 5 concludes the dissertation with a few thoughts on the value of interdisciplinarity in pursuing further research into aquaculture and fisheries policy in the United States.


Fishing; Aquaculture; Environment; Policy; United States