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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - N.C. Aquaculture: Shellfish Lease and Franchise Program

Marine Fisheries

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N.C. Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Permitting Program

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Lease FAQS

Lease Application

Aquaculture Permits

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries administers the Shellfish Lease and Franchise Program for the purposes of shellfish cultivation, aquaculture and mariculture within the State of North Carolina. The state has allowed shellfish leases on unproductive bottom since 1858. (Table 1).

Shellfish Lease Applications:

Shellfish bottom lease and water column applications are accepted annually from March 1 through Sept. 1. Shellfish lease site investigations are conducted from April 1 through Oct. 31 to coincide with the growing season for submerged aquatic vegetation.

To learn about the status of a current shellfish lease application or about the location of an active or terminated shellfish lease, please use our interactive shellfish aquaculture tool. The shellfish aquaculture tool is designed to allow new shellfish lease applicants, current shellfish lease holders, and anyone else interested in shellfish leases to follow the application process. The tool is updated weekly to ensure the most up-to-date information is posted.


Click on the photo to view the interactive shellfish aquaculture tool

The shellfish aquaculture tool, in combination with the resources below, are there to assist applicants in planning for a potential shellfish farm site. To get started with the interactive tool, a quick user’s guide is available here, or a more detailed user’s manual is available here.

Table 1: Lease Type by Acreage

Lease Type Total Total Acreage
Franchise 50 519.66
Shellfish Bottom Lease 222 1216.71
Water Column 85 241.54
Totals 357 1977.03
* Current as of Jan 2, 2020

Table 2: Lease Applications by Year

Year

Bottom Lease Applications

New Water Column Applications

2009 0 0
2010 1 1
2011 1 1
2012 8 6
2013 6 10
2014 8 7
2015 9 2
2016 10 11
2017 52 46
2018 36 33
2019 58 48
* Current as of Jan 2, 2020

Resources:

N.C. Shellfish Lease Presentation
North Carolina Sea Grant

Frank Lopez: fmlopez@ncsu.edu
919-515-3012

Lease Siting

Many criteria need to be considered when siting a new shellfish lease. The North Carolina Shellfish Lease Siting Tool, created and maintained by the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is an interactive decision-support tool that will assist new or current growers in siting new or expanding shellfish operations on the North Carolina coastline. It provides visual representation of data specifically related to shellfish aquaculture such as salinity, bottom type, depth, and shellfish growing area classifications. To use this siting tool, visit:  http://uncw.edu/benthic/sitingtool/

Shellfish Sanitation

The division’s Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section is responsible for ensuring the safety of molluscan shellfish by monitoring water quality throughout coastal waters. The link below shows shellfish closures statewide.
https://ncdenr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=5759aa19d7484a3b82a8e440fba643aa

Aquaculture-Related Permits

There are other permits that are required for various aquaculture activities at no cost. The type of permit required will be determined by the specific type of aquaculture operations. Applications for the most commonly used permits are listed below. For other aquaculture-related permits for shellfish, crustacean, or finfish species, or for questions, interested parties should contact Teresa Barrett with the Division of Marine Fisheries. (Teresa.Barrett@ncdenr.gov)

Aquaculture Seed Transfer Permit
Required to move any seed from restricted or prohibited waters. Seed size for oysters up to 25mm and up to 12.5 mm for clams. This is an annual reviewable permit that expires December 31 of each year. Leaseholders can apply at any time during the year.

Polluted Area Relay Permit (~April 1-May 15/subject to proclamation)
Polluted Area Relay Maps (Updated March, 2020 — annual update)
Provides the opportunity to relay of clams and oyster out of specific polluted areas to leases, with Marine Patrol coordination. Leaseholders receive the permit application in March. Maps, signs and permits are send to applicants after permit approval. The lease will remain closed to harvest to allow for depuration until reopened by proclamation (about six weeks). Permitees must submit a transplant report to the division after relay period (no future relay permits will be issued if the transplant report is not received).

Seed Oyster Management Area (SOMA) Permit
Seed Oyster Management Area (SOMA) Maps and Description

(15A NCAC 03R .0116 – DESIGNATED SEED OYSTER MANAGEMENT AREAS)

Provides the opportunity to relay oysters out of Seed Oyster Management Areas (SOMA) to shellfish leases between April and October. The relay is restricted to 100 bushels per acre of shellfish lease, not to exceed 1,000 bushels per lease. Permitees must submit a SOMA transplant report to the division by Oct. 31 (no future relay permits will be issued if a transplant report is not received).

Mechanical Methods/Harvest Permit
Allows the use of mechanical harvest methods on shellfish leases not located within a primary nursery area. This is an annual reviewable permit that runs July 1 to June 30. Leaseholders may apply for a permit at any time during the year.

Aquaculture Operations Permit (AOP)
Allows for the propagation of marine or estuarine resources from permitted sources for rearing in a controlled environment, while protecting the state’s natural resources from disease, gene mixing, and over competition. A controlled environment provides and maintains throughout the rearing process one or more of the following: (i) food; (ii) predator protection; (iii) salinity; (iv) temperature controls; or (v) water circulation, utilizing technology not found in the natural environment.

Application to Introduce, Transfer, or Hold Imported Marine and Estuarine Organisms
Needed for the introduction into coastal waters of living marine or estuarine organisms not native to North Carolina; transfer of marine or estuarine organisms which are native, but which originated outside the state's boundaries; holding or maintaining any imported marine or estuarine organisms in a quarantine or isolation system for brood stock, aquaculture, or bait; or selling for bait any live marine or estuarine organism imported into the state. Testing is required prior to issuance of permit. Each batch must be tested within 30 days of shipment to North Carolina. Each test will consist of a minimum of 60 organisms.

Application for Under the Dock Permit
N.C. Under Dock Oyster Culture Manual
Under Dock Oyster Culture Permit Test
Allows a dock owner to attach oyster cultivation containers under his dock, following specific permit conditions, to grow oysters for personal consumption. The dock or pier cannot be located in an area closed to shellfish harvest. Owner must satisfy training requirements established by the Marine Fisheries Commission prior to issuance of permit. Reporting requirements must be met yearly. Sale of oysters is prohibited.

Statutes, Rules, and Proclamations:

www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/ByArticle/Chapter_113/Article_16.pdf
N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rules

Contacts:

For Shellfish Lease correspondence please contact:

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
attn: Shellfish Lease Program
P.O. Box 769
Morehead City, NC 28557
800-682-2632
Email: DMF.Leasingshellfish@ncdenr.gov

For Aquaculture Permit correspondence please contact:

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
attn.: Aquaculture Permit Coordinator
P.O. Box 769
Morehead City, NC 28557
800-682-2632
Email: Teresa.Barrett@ncdenr.gov

 
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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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