skip to main content | skip to footer
North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - NCDENR - Shellfish Lease and Franchise Programs

Marine Fisheries

shellfish leases graphic

N.C. Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Permitting Program

8-point rule

 

 

Lease FAQS

Lease Application*

Aquaculture Permits

Public Hearings

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:

Changes to the 2021 Shellfish Lease Application-

  1. New riparian owner notification policy- once an application is approved for public hearing, applicants must show an attempt to notify all riparian owners within 250 feet of the proposed shellfish lease by certified mail.
  2. Applications are due, and must be returned to DMF by August 1, 2021.
  3. Shellfish lease site investigations will be conducted from April 1 through October 1.
  4. Applications that are incomplete, filled incorrectly, or propose ineligible shellfish lease sites will be denied. The application fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable.
  5. Any shellfish leases granted or renewed after July 1, 2019 will be subject to new commercial shellfish production requirements. If you are not familiar with these new requirements, please reference page 17 of the shellfish lease application, or page 4 of the informational appendices.


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

Shellfish Lease Application
Information Appendices

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.

Table 1: Shellfish Lease Type and Total Number and Acreage in North Carolina 

Shellfish Leases
Type
Number Total Acreage
Bottom 232 1,240.87
Water Column 97 295.77
Franchise 48 512.89
Research 4 23.58
Total
381 2,073.11

 

Table 2: Shellfish Lease Applications by Year and Type

Shellfish Lease Applications
Year Bottom Water Column
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
2020+ 29 25

*Hurricane Florence (September) resulted in fewer applications.
+COVID-19 pandemic and adjusted application due dates resulted in fewer applications. 
 

Resources:

Technical Assistance


N.C. Shellfish Lease Presentation
North Carolina Sea Grant
Eric Herbst: echerbst@ncsu.edu, (252)222-6314


Shellfish Lease Siting
 

To learn about the status of a current shellfish lease application or about the location of an active or terminated shellfish lease, please use the interactive DMF 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. Users can see existing shellfish leases, closed areas, historical seagrass beds, and terminated shellfish leases to better inform the site selection 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.


UNCW has also developed a lease siting tool, The North Carolina Shellfish Lease Siting Tool. This tool 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 Marla Chuffo with the Division of Marine Fisheries. (Shellfish.Lease.Permits@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 a biannual reviewable permit that expires on June 30th and December 31st of the year in which the permit is issued. Shellfish 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, 2021 — 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.

Shellfish Lease Restoration Permit
Allows the transportation of oysters or other shellfish for restoration purposes not related to human consumption from an individual’s shellfish lease or franchise to restoration sites. All shellfish lease and franchise activities shall adhere to all Shellfish Sanitation requirements including the most current proclamations until time of transportation of the shellfish for restoration purposes. It is unlawful to use shellfish cultivated on a shellfish lease or franchise for restoration purposes without possessing a Shellfish Lease Restoration Permit issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries.

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: Shellfish.Lease.Permits@ncdenr.gov

 

 

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

NCDMF logo

38337 FEEDBACK

Your input is valuable to us. Please send us your feedback.

What type of feedback would you like to send?*

Ask a Question Report a Problem Have a Concern Make a Comment

(If you would like us to respond please include your phone or e-mail.)

Your Question has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Problem has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Concern has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Comment has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

*If you are a DENR employee with an I.T. issue, please submit a DOTS ticket.