Shellfish Lease and Franchise

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.

Application Lease FAQs Aquaculture Permits Public Hearings

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.

Shellfish Lease Applications

Shellfish Lease Applications

Shellfish Lease Application Information Appendices

Changes to the 2021 Shellfish Lease Application:

  1. New riparian owner notification policy- once an application is approved for public hearing, applicants must show an attempt to notify all riparian owners within 250 feet of the proposed shellfish lease by certified mail.
  2. Applications are due, and must be returned to DMF by August 1, 2021.
  3. Shellfish lease site investigations will be conducted from April 1 through October 1.
  4. Applications that are incomplete, filled incorrectly, or propose ineligible shellfish lease sites will be denied. The application fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable.
  5. Any shellfish leases granted or renewed after July 1, 2019 will be subject to new commercial shellfish production requirements. If you are not familiar with these new requirements, please reference page 17 of the shellfish lease application, or page 4 of the informational appendices.

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.

Shellfish Lease Presentation

Shellfish Lease Siting

Shellfish Lease Siting

NC DMF Shellfish Aquaculture Tool Quick User's Guide

NC DMF Shellfish Aquaculture Tool User's Manual

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.

Stats and Figures

Stats and Figures

Table 1: Shellfish Lease Type and Total Number and Acreage in North Carolina
Shellfish Leases
Type  Number Total Acreage
Bottom 232 1,240.87
Water Column 97 295.77
Franchise 48 512.89
Research 4 23.58
Total 381 2,073.11
Table 2: Shellfish Lease Applications by Year and Type
Shellfish Lease Applications
Year Bottom Water Column
2009 0 0
2010 1 1
2011 1 1
2012 8 6
2013 6 10
2014 8 7
2015 9 2
2016 10 11
2017 52 46
2018* 36 33
2019 58 48
2020 29 25

*Hurricane Florence (September) resulted in fewer appplications.
COVID-19 and adjusted application due dates resulted in fewer applications.

Shellfish Sanitation

Shellfish Sanitation

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 Sanitation Temporary Closure Public Viewer 

Statutes, Rules, and Proclamations Contacts and Resources

Contacts and Resources

Contacts

Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Program Coordinator
Owen Mulvey-McFerron
252-269-3082 
Owen.Mulvey-McFerron@ncdenr.gov 

Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Program Assistant
Marla Chuffo
Marla.Chuffo@ncdenr.gov 

Aquaculture Permits Coordinator
Zach Harrison
Zach.Harrison@ncdenr.gov 

SeaGrant Coastal Aquaculture Specialist
Eric Herbst
echerbst@ncsu.edu

Resource Links

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 

View the interactive map of current temporary and permanent shellfish 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.