New aquaculture permit conditions facilitate cultivation of more finfish species

Indoor aquaculture tanks. [courtesy NCDEQ]

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has modified aquaculture permit conditions to facilitate the cultivation of more finfish species in upland facilities by exempting these operations from size and possession limits.

The exemption applies only to species approved in a facility’s Aquaculture Operation Permit, and it corresponds to Proclamation FF-10-2022, issued Tuesday.

Previously, only certain finfish species in North Carolina cultivated in aquaculture operations were exempt from the possession and size limits.

Historically, laws developed for fisheries management were written to govern wild caught finfish species, which presented a challenge to managing finfish aquaculture operations. As interest in finfish aquaculture increased in recent years, staff began to review these requirements to better inform aquaculture management in North Carolina.

“We worked with various stakeholders to determine how their needs could be met while staying within the confines of the law and also not creating overly burdensome requirements,” said Jacob Boyd, Habitat and Enhancement Section Chief with the Division of Marine Fisheries.

Staff also avoided creating an enforcement problem by keeping all other conditions of the Aquaculture Operation Permit, including record-keeping requirements designed to track the movement of finfish as an aquaculture product from its source to the consumer.

“Tracking the product and ensuring enforcement officers can differentiate between aquaculture raised species versus wild caught species was a major concern we had to consider when determining appropriate measures to include in the permit conditions,” said Carter Witten, Marine Patrol Colonel with the Division of Marine Fisheries.

Aquaculture Operations Permits allow 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 and are available at no cost. Conducting aquaculture operations without the proper permits will result in a citation and could shut down the aquaculture operation. Failure to comply with all permit conditions will also result in suspension or revocation of the permit.

“The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is committed to encouraging the development of the aquaculture industry in North Carolina while ensuring compliance with existing requirements,” Boyd said. “These new permit conditions expand the aquaculture industry to allow for further growth.”

For questions or more information about aquaculture permitting in North Carolina, please visit the aquaculture permit webpage https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/marine-fisheries/licenses-permits-and-leases/aquaculture-permits and/or contact the Aquaculture Permit Coordinator Zach Harrison at 252-808-8056 or Zach.Harrison@ncdenr.gov.

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