There are 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 Zach Harrison with the Division of Marine Fisheries.

Tab/Accordion Items

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 for Aquaculture Operations Permit (AOP)

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 runs from January 1 to June 30 and July 1 to December 31. Permit holders can apply at any time during the year.

Application for Aquaculture Seed Transfer Permit

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). 

Seed Oyster Management Area (SOMA) Maps and Description (15A NCAC 03R .0116 – DESIGNATED SEED OYSTER MANAGEMENT AREAS)

Application for Seed Oyster Management Area (SOMA) 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.

Application for Mechanical Methods/Harvest Permit

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 to Introduce, Transfer, or Hold Imported Marine and Estuarine Organisms

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.

N.C. Under Dock Oyster Culture Manual
Under Dock Oyster Culture Permit Test

Application for Under the Dock 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.

Application for Shellfish Lease Restoration Permit

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). 

See Map (updated March, 2020 - annual update)

Application for Polluted Area Relay Permit (~April 1-May 15/subject to proclamation)