Point Sources and Pollutants: Using the Clean Water Act to Regulate Offshore Aquaculture Discharges

Event Date: 
December 5, 2012

Aquaculture is an increasingly important component of the world food supply, but it causes a variety of environmental impacts, including those resulting from discharge of excess food, waste material, parasiticides, biological material, and other pollutants into the ocean. In the United States, the Clean Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent and regulate pollutant discharges from aquaculture facilities, including those located in federal ocean waters. Offshore aquaculture facilities exceeding a minimum size threshold are considered point sources subject to EPA permitting. Permit requirements for most point sources are based on Effluent Limitations Guidelines for aquaculture facilities. In addition, EPA's Ocean Discharge Criteria, created as directed by section 403 of the Clean Water Act, require EPA to determine that the permitted discharges will not cause undue degradation of ocean waters.

This webinar brings together experts from the Environmental Law Institute, EPA, and academia to explore questions related to the application of the Clean Water Act to offshore aquaculture. Speakers will consider topics including what facilities are considered point sources, coverage of escaped organisms and other pollutants in the Effluent Limitations Guidelines, the utility of the Ocean Discharge Criteria, and other challenges related to implementation of the Clean Water Act to aquaculture in federal ocean waters. In conjunction with the webinar, we will release a white paper reviewing the application of the Clean Water Act to offshore aquaculture and identifying ways in which current practice can be improved to better address the unique challenges involved in aquaculture development in federal ocean waters.

MODERATOR: Read Porter, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law Institute


  • Robin Kundis Craig, William H. Leary Professor of Law, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah
  • Jeremy M. Firestone, Professor of Marine Policy and Legal Studies, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of Delaware 
  • Janet Goodwin, Chief, Technology & Statistics, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Eric P. Nelson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 1 (Commenter)

This seminar is generously supported by the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, and the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation.

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