Alaska Aquaculture Permitting

Lease and permit information for commercial marine aquaculture activities

Permits for commercial marine aquaculture activities

Questions to Consider

What is the intent of your project and what is your final product? Commercial aquaculture involves the sale of a cultivated organism. If your project is for research or educational purposes, different rules apply, such as:

Man tumbling oysters at oyster farm.
Tumbling oysters at Kake Oyster Farm. Photo: Alaska Sea Grant
  • Aquaculture organisms that are cultivated and used as part of research or education projects under an Aquatic Resource Permit may not be bartered, traded, consumed, or sold.
  • Any species approved for release is considered common property and may not be claimed for cost recovery or any other reason.
  • Specimens not approved for release must be destroyed and disposed of as directed.

Is there an aquatic farm in your area that you can tour or volunteer at in order to understand the seed-to-consumer process better before you start?

What shellfish, invertebrate, or seaweed species do you want to farm?

What general area would you like to be located in?

  • What (city, state, or federal) agency, native corporation, or tribe manages the location of your potential farmsite?
  • Is aquaculture an allowable use in the area (see DNR Area Plans)?
  • Have you visited potential sites that are suitable for the species you want to farm?
  • Can you access your site year-round? Identify transit routes and shoreside infrastructure. Ensure safe transit routes to/from aquaculture projects and product landing sites, and access to adequate infrastructure such as utilities, ice, storage, and transportation.
  • Does your preferred area freeze in the winter? Winter icing can severely damage gear and indicate too much fresh water for optimal harvests.
  • Is your preferred area in a shallow bay? Small shallow areas can get too warm in the summer and result in low oxygen levels or minimal water exchange rates and can be detrimental to shellfish health.
  • Are there other farms nearby? Could you collaborate with those farms on product transportation, growing area classification, water quality testing, etc.?
cleaning oysters after harvest
Cleaning oysters at Naukati Oyster Farm. Photo: Alaska Sea Grant

What is feasible for your workforce?

  • Do you have access to workers who have the necessary skills (skiff/boat operation, knot tying, etc.) and seasonal availability?
  • What wages will they expect?
  • Will your workers need to stay on site or will they commute every day? Do you have the resources (bunkhouse, skiff, etc.) available for them to do so?

What equipment and materials do you have on hand and what materials need to be purchased for building your farm site?

  • If you plan on purchasing used gear, take steps to prevent spread of invasive species.

Do you have a potential insurance carrier that can provide farm insurance and workers’ compensation insurance (including for yourself)?

What size farm are you considering? Check out the Alaska Shellfish Farm Size Feasibility Study to help you figure out what size of farm and species types may be most profitable and sustainable.

Oyster floats in Halibut Cove
Oyster floats in Halibut Cove. Photo: Alaska Shellfish Farms
  • What will permitting fees cost for that acreage? (See Licenses, Permits, and Fees table).
  • How much kelp/how many oysters do you want to grow?
  • Will you have room to expand?
  • Is there an existing farm you could purchase or lease?

What are you going to do with your product? Direct to market, sell to processors, something else?

  • If you are not direct marketing to consumers, do you have a buyer/processor for your product? How much (weight/volume) are they interested in buying?

Does your project overlap with protected species?

  • Certain marine species (e.g., marine mammals, fishes, and birds) and habitats (e.g., critical habitat) are protected by state and federal laws. Mitigation efforts may be required to minimize potential effects to protected species (see Siting Your Farm).