It may sound like an odd mix but aquaculture, invasive species and biofuels are all concerns of the National Sea Grant Law Center.

“We’re a federal/university partnership,” says Stephanie Showalter-Otts, president of the center, which is housed on the Ole Miss campus. “We’re part of the National Sea Grant College program, which is modeled after the land grants and administered by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). Universities receive money from NOAA to work with coastal communities to address various issues.”

First established in the 1970s, Sea Grant’s initial focus was “primarily to work with fishermen -- connecting university research to the fishing community. Since then, its mission has expanded to include the entire coastal community working on issues that can range from tourism, natural resource use, land use, and energy and economic development.”

The National Sea Grant Law Center was initiated in 2002 to provide non-biased legal research, education and services to the 32 Sea Grant programs around the country and their constituents. “We work to increase understanding and awareness of legal issues and help to reduce barriers to policy implementation.

“So, we’re very similar to the (University of Arkansas) National Ag Law Center but with a different emphasis.”

Among other comments by Showalter-Otts, who recently spoke at the inaugural Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference in Tunica in mid-May:

Your work with aquaculture is the reason for the concern with the Lacey Act?

“That’s correct.

“Because we work with coastal communities we get a lot of questions about marine aquaculture. Right now, primarily, the focus is on shellfish aquaculture.

“It turns out there’s an overlap in some of the regulations and permitting with both marine and freshwater aquaculture. One of those overlaps is the Lacey Act.

“One important thing to keep in mind at the outset is there are two different provisions in the Lacey Act. Sometimes they’re talked about in the same way – but they’re very different.

“Title 16 of the Lacey Act was intended to help states enforce their wildlife laws. Title 16 makes it a federal offense to move species across state lines that have been taken, bought or sold in violation of state law. This would apply, for instance, in a situation where someone shot a deer out of season and then sold it to someone in another state.”