Aquaculture Regulations and Permitting Overview

State by State Leasing and Permitting Requirements

NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture published a report (updated in 2021) providing an overview of permitting and leasing programs for aquaculture in U.S. state waters.

Caveat from NOAA: the report is not comprehensive, and your farm may require permits or be subject to requirements not listed. Information may also be outdated or incomplete and is not a substitute for a personal discussion of your project with a state aquaculture representative.

Best Management Practices Guide for Regulators


ECSGA Executive Director Bob Rheault recorded a 40-minute Zoom presentation to help regulators in designing aquaculture regulations that are fair, equitable and comprehensive.

EPA Effluent Guidelines

Effluent Guidelines are national regulatory standards for wastewater discharged to surface waters and municipal sewage treatment plants. EPA issues these regulations for industrial categories, based on the performance of treatment and control technologies.

Evaluation of U.S. Shellfish Aquaculture Permitting Systems

This June 2018 report presents an exhaustive comparison of aquaculture permitting systems and includes recommendations on how to improve permitting efficiencies and industry development. It was prepared for the National Marine Fisheries Service by Tom O’Connell of Earth Resource Technology Inc., who based it on a 2016 review of 22 shellfish aquaculture permitting systems covering all the coastal states in the continental U.S.

Massachusetts Aquaculture Permitting

This website provides a one-stop shop for information about the cost, timeline and permit application, as well as resources for new growers and detailed steps for the annual reporting process. Information on preventing negative impacts to fisheries habitats, protected species, and public access of our shared coastal waters is also provided.

NOAA Fisheries Guide to Permitting Marine Aquaculture in the U.S. (2022)

This guide was prepared by NOAA in consultation with the Subcommittee on Aquaculture under the National Science and Technology Council. It outlines the key requirements necessary to obtain federal permits to conduct commercial aquaculture activities and provides an overview of the federal statutes and regulations governing aquaculture in the United States.


NOAA Fisheries Marine Aquaculture Regulations and Policies

NOAA Fisheries plays a central role in developing and implementing policies that enable marine aquaculture, working to ensure that aquaculture complies with existing federal laws and regulations that NOAA enforces under its marine stewardship mission.


NOAA Shellfish Best Management Practices, Standards, and Certification Programs

This NOAA web page provides links to documents containing both industry-driven and government mandated best management practices. This list provides examples of some prominent best management practices documents, but is by no means an exhaustive list.

NSSP Guide to Molluscan Shellfish

The National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) is the federal/state cooperative program recognized by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption. The purpose of the NSSP is to promote and improve the sanitation of shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) moving in interstate commerce through federal/state cooperation and uniformity of State shellfish programs. Participants in the NSSP include agencies from shellfish producing and non-producing States, FDA, EPA, NOAA, and the shellfish industry.

Nationwide Permit Re-Issuance Comments

Read the comments that ECSGA and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding their proposal to re-issue and modify several Nationwide Permits, including 48, which is specific to shellfish culture.

Strategic Plan to Enhance Regulatory Efficiency in Aquaculture Comments

In October 2021 the ECSGA submitted comments on the Draft Strategic Plan to Enhance Regulatory Efficiency in Aquaculture, a Report issued by the Regulatory Efficiency Task Force of the Subcommittee on Aquaculture, National Science & Technology Council. The association commended the efforts of the federal agencies on the Task Force to reduce U.S. reliance on imported seafood and to streamline and facilitate aquaculture permitting. The association provided three pages of specific recommendations that would help improve permitting efficiency for shellfish farmers.


Summary of Shellfish Aquaculture Leasing/Permitting Rules with the State and Army Corps

This Microsoft Excel spreadsheet is solid gold, detailing all the specific regulations, contacts, information sources and production estimates for each of the 22 coastal states. But be aware that this is a moving target, as states regularly change their regulations, links get updated, and each one of the eight U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts, which regulate structures in navigable waters, updates permit requirements every five years. It's always a good idea to talk to your state permitting authority or extension agent about regulations in your area