The seafloor at an open ocean finfish aquaculture facility in the western Gulf of Maine, USA was monitored from 1999 to 2008 by sampling sites inside a predicted impact area modeled by oceanographic conditions and fecal and food settling characteristics, and nearby reference sites. Univariate and multivariate analyses of benthic community measures from box core samples indicated minimal or no significant differences between impact and reference areas. These findings resulted in development of an adaptive monitoring protocol involving initial low-cost methods that required more intensive and costly efforts only when negative impacts were initially indicated. The continued growth of marine aquaculture is dependent on further development of farming methods that minimize negative environmental impacts, as well as effective monitoring protocols. Adaptive monitoring protocols, such as the one described herein, coupled with mathematical modeling approaches, have the potential to provide effective protection of the environment while minimize monitoring effort and costs.