Stories From The Field

Picturing Offshore Aquaculture in the Southern California Bight

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Public perception is often a large barrier for coastal aquaculture in the United States. Citizens are uncertain of the visual impacts and the potential conflicts with other ocean uses. The first step to addressing these uncertainties is to illustrate the impact on the seascape.


NOAA used CanVis software to create photo simulations and digitally enhanced photographs of the Rose Canyon Fisheries aquaculture project in southern California. Scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Coastal Aquaculture Planning and Environmental Sustainability program created these visualizations to support marine policy development and decision-making. Photographs from different shoreline perspectives were taken throughout the region and digitally enhanced with marine aquaculture equipment, boats, buoys, and gear. Research revealed that the proposed aquaculture project would not be visible from the beach or shoreline at sea level; however, at elevations above three stories (9.8 meters) farming operations would be visible along the horizon.


The CanVis images provided coastal managers and local officials with a glimpse of what the future around San Diego may look like with marine aquaculture development. These realistic simulations have been used as a communication tool to engage coastal managers, industry participants, and stakeholders during regional workshops. CanVis is a useful tool for leading engaging and thought-provoking discussions on ocean use and spatial planning.

Dr. James Morris (NCCOS/CAPES) collects photos along southern California for CanVis simulations of an offshore aquaculture demonstration project. Photos were taken from Crystal Pier in Mission Beach, California. The pier, hotels, and other objects in the photographs were used for proper scaling and digital image enhancements.
A CanVis simulation of an offshore aquaculture demonstration project reveals that the farm would have minimal impact on shoreline vistas. Tools such as CanVis can be used to instill confidence in coastal planners and stakeholders about the need for proper siting of aquaculture projects.
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