To learn about the status of a current shellfish lease application or about the location of an active or terminated shellfish lease, please use this interactive DMF Shellfish Aquaculture Tool. Learn more about the tool and Shellfish Lease Siting.
If this map is not displaying properly, view it in a standalone browser window.
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 has allowed shellfish leases on unproductive bottom since 1858.
The 2023 shellfish lease application period closed on August 1st, 2023. The 2024 application will open March 1st, 2024.
Applications that are incomplete, filled incorrectly, or propose ineligible shellfish lease sites will be denied. The application fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable.
Important notes regarding the Shellfish Lease Application:
- Storm Prep and Gear Management Plan - all new applications must include a comprehensive storm prep and gear management plan (Section 5 of the application, information in Appendix VII). This plan is mandatory and must be completed. Please contact staff if you have any questions.
- Shellfish lease rule language changes took effect in 2022. These rules include:
- 250’ riparian setback requirement from developed shorelines, unless the application is accompanied by a signed riparian owner permission form.
- 250’ buffer between proposed shellfish leases and all existing leases.
- Cumulative impact language that will allow the director to consider the impacts of existing shellfish leases (among other factors) when making a final decision to approve or deny a shellfish lease application.
- Updated marking requirements for shellfish leases and franchises. New leases are limited to a maximum of eight corner poles. Each corner stake must have 12 vertical inches or reflective tape or a yellow light, and each water column shellfish lease must have a ‘Caution’ or ‘Warning’ sign on each corner in place of two yellow floats.
- Updated training program requirements for new shellfish lease applicants.
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.
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.
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.
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, see the User's Guide and User's Manual above.
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.
Table 1: Shellfish Lease Type and Total Number and Acreage in North Carolina
Table 2: Shellfish Lease Applications by Year and Type
|Shellfish Lease Applications|
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.
Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Program Assistant
Aquaculture Permits Coordinator
SeaGrant Coastal Aquaculture Specialist
North Carolina Sea Grant: Can provide valuable assistance in helping you determine capital investment, lease size, grow-out methods, seed sources, and many other important items that will help your aquaculture venture succeed.
Carteret Community College: Offers an Aquaculture Technology certificate, as well as a degree. These classes provide technical knowledge about aquaculture, operating a business, and finance management.
NOAA: The data is available via NOAA's Marine Cadastre national mapper and viewer. The specific data are for Vessel Traffic density. Generalized summaries are available in the Marine Cadastre viewer. *Note this does not apply to personal watercraft.
North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association: industry group that shellfish growers can join and network with other growers.
East Coast Shellfish Growers Association: regional association that includes information on shellfish aquaculture including Best Management Practices. They produce a newsletter with updates on legislation, scientific studies, and other pertinent information concerning shellfish growers.
Shellfish Sanitation and Closures
Current polluted area proclamations can be viewed on the Polluted Area Proclamations page.
Current (Shellfish Sanitation) proclamations specifying time to temperature controls can be viewed on the Fisheries Management Proclamations page.