N.C. Aquaculture: Shellfish Lease and Franchise Program
The North Carolina 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 of North Carolina has provided for the private use of public trust waters for the production of shellfish by the cultivation of unproductive bottom by allowing this bottom to be leased to residents of North Carolina since 1858. As of February 2014 there were 172 shellfish leases encompassing 1179 acres and 50 shellfish franchises encompassing 516 acres of estuarine bottom in coastal North Carolina. Fourteen shellfish water column operations existed within 37 acres of leased or franchised bottom.
Shellfish Lease Applications:
Shellfish bottom lease and water column applications will be accepted from Mar. 1 through Sept. 30. Shellfish lease site investigations will only be conducted from April 1 through Oct. 31 to coincide with the growing season for submerged aquatic vegetation.
There are other permits that are required for various aquaculture activities at no cost. Specific aquaculture operations will determine what is required. Applications for the most commonly used are listed below. For other aquaculture-related permits for shellfish or finfish species, interested parties should contact the Division of Marine Fisheries.
For additional map information, please contact the Shellfish Lease Biologist
Provides the opportunity to relay of clams and oyster out of specific polluted areas to leases with Marine Patrol coordination. Leaseholders receive permit application in March. Maps, signs and permits are send to applicants by end of March. The lease will remain closed for harvest to allow for depuration until reopened by proclamation (~6 weeks). A transplant report required to DMF after relay period, no future relay permits will be issued if transplant report is not received.
Seed Oyster Management Area (SOMA) Permit
(15A NCAC 03R .0116 – DESIGNATED SEED OYSTER MANAGEMENT AREAS)
Provides the opportunity to relay oysters out of SOMAs to shellfish leases between April and October. Restricted to 100/bushels per acre of shellfish lease, not to exceed 1000 bushels per lease. A SOMA transplant report required to DMF by Oct. 31.
Mechanical Methods/Harvest Permit
Provides opportunity to use mechanical methods on shellfish leases not located within a primary nursery area. Annual reviewable permit (July 1-June 30). Permit applications may take up to two weeks to review. Leaseholders are able to submit application for permit at any time during the year
Aquaculture Operations Permit (AOP)
Allows a dock owner to attach oyster cultivation containers under their dock, following specific permit conditions to grow oysters for personal consumption.
Many criteria need to be taken into consideration 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 for the North Carolina coastline that will assist new or current growers in siting new or expanding shellfish operations by providing visual representation of data specifically related to shellfish aquaculture such as salinity, bottom type, depth, and and shellfish growing area classifications. To use this siting tool, visit http://uncw.edu/benthic/sitingtool/
N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rules
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries