Aquaculture Extension

Extension outreach activities in aquaculture are conducted by the campus-based Cooperative Extension Specialists working independently, or in concert with other University faculty who also have some outreach responsibility. This cooperative effort expands the outreach capabilities of the total aquaculture program and allows greater utilization of University resources. Major outreach programs include freshwater and marine aquaculture production; system design and management; water quality management; species physiology and biological requirements; disease and stress management; aquatic animal welfare; invasive species management; recirculating aquaculture systems for water reuse and aquaponics systems support.



Oyster aquaculture is California’s oldest aquaculture industry. What began in the early 1850’s as a transplant shellfish industry from the east coast is today a valuable asset to the state’s economy, traditions and a guardian of water quality in our natural resources. Today the California marine aquaculture industry grows a variety of shellfish species, primarily bivalve shellfish including Pacific and Kumamoto oysters, Manila clams, and Mediterranean mussels; and is the only state with an abalone industry. California shellfish products are considered prime, and the production areas are among the best in the country. Current bivalve shellfish production is located in northern California’s Arcata Bay; Tomales Bay and Morro Bay located in the state’s central coastline; and Agua Hedionda Lagoon located in southern California. A number of oyster nurseries are located in Bodega Bay. Currently, offshore mussel and oyster production occur on the Santa Barbara Coastline. (Here is a video about Santa Barbara Mariculture and ocean farming of mussels).  A number of production sites are also being planned in Southern California.  There once was a time when California had over 20 abalone farms. We are down to a few remaining farms such as land-based, The  Cultured Abalone, and the ocean farming beneath the fishermen’s wharf at Monterey Abalone


California has the most diverse aquaculture finfish industry in the United States. The various topographies and microclimates result in a wide range of water temperatures, and over twenty-five species of finfish are in production. Finfish products include food fish, recreational finfish, and ornamental species. California does not have a major aquaculture finfish processing industry. Most finfish species are live-hauled to larger metropolitan areas where they are held in live-tanks, but fresh-killed and sold directly to consumers. Major live-haul species include channel catfish, hybrid carp, and tilapia. California is the largest producer of sturgeon and caviar in the United States. The sturgeon meat is sold regionally, and internationally; and the caviar is considered prime and also sold internationally. Secondary food species, used in the recreational fishing industry, support a multi-billion-dollar-a-year recreational sports industry. Major recreational finfish species include channel catfish, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and lesser sunfish such as bluegill and redear sunfish. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other producers of salmon and steelhead across the State such as Mt. Lassen Trout and Steelhead to support salmon conservation and recreational fishing. 

Additional Aquaculture

Algal culture, both in marine and freshwater environments, is another demonstration of the diversity of the State’s aquaculture production. Spirulina production for multiple products has been grown in the Salton sea area for several decades, and currently, large investments have been made in the culture of selected strains of microalgae for the production of biofuels. Microalgal and associated invertebrate rotifer and artemia production for hatchery rearing of mollusks, shrimp, and finfish have been established on the central coast for two decades. Offshore marine aquaculture ventures have also received grants to research the culture of macroalgae (seaweeds) for both human and animal consumption. Land-based seaweed production can be found at Moss Landing with Monterey Bay Seaweeds. Algal culture in all its forms has a bright future in California aquaculture.

Although recirculating aquaculture systems for water reuse have been employed by California’s aquaculture industry since the early 1990s, a new emphasis and expansion of this technology are foreseen. California’s priority is now the preservation of its water resources, and the expansion of water conservation technologies and multiple uses of water resources is an industry priority. The rapid development of aquaponics, the merger of growing fish, and hydroponic plant production together in one integrated system, are expected and support programs for this technology are being developed.