Resources for Shellfish Growers | Permitting & Regulations

One of the first questions that prospective shellfish growers ask is:

"What do I need to do, for permitting and licensing?"

Permitting is an important topic. Whether you're talking about a small operation to grow some oysters for yourself and your friends, or 50 acres of mussel longline, you'd be well advised to be thinking about permitting right from an early stage.

Permitting for shellfish aquaculture is not overly complicated, but it does involve several steps, and applications need to be complete and detailed. Depending on the type of application, the process can take several weeks to several months. By leasing or licensing, the state is granting authority for the applicant to have exclusive rights to some of Maine's coastal waters, and the process is intended to take that outcome seriously.

There are three main types of leases and licenses for shellfish aquaculture in Maine:

  1. The Limited Purpose Aquaculture License is the simplest, cheapest and smallest, and the quickest to get. It can cover up to 400 square feet of culture equipment and costs $50 for a calendar year. Only certain species and types of equipment are covered, and it does not include bottom-seeding activities.

    Species that can be grown on an LPA include: blue mussels, hard clams, surf clams, Eastern oysters, European oysters, sea scallops, and soft-shell clams. Acceptable culture equipment on an LPA includes: upwellers, rafts, spat collectors, trays/racks, bottom cages, soft bags, and lantern nets. Since there are many different types of each category, contacting the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources aquaculture staff is recommended, if you have questions.

  2. Experimental Leases cost $100 to apply for, and are limited to a 3-year term, and up to 4 acres in size. There is a $100-per-acre annual rent fee, and any type of culture gear can be used, as long as it's appropriate for the site. There are no species limitations, as long as they are native or endemic to Maine.

  3. Standard Leases can be up to 100 acres, for up to 10 years. They are more expensive, carrying a $1500 application fee for shellfish production ($2000 for finish), and the $100-per-acre annual rent also applies. There are no species limitations, as long as they are native or endemic to Maine.

The Maine Dept. of Marine Resources has developed a nice document to summarize the types of lease and license permissions for shellfish growers, entitled: "Conducting Aquaculture in Maine. The document also makes some good recommendations about what prospective growers should or should not do, when thinking about applying, and securing a spot for your shellfish farm. Bottom line however, prospective growers should:

  • Select a site that will work for the biological and other requirements for your species
  • Select a site that will work to the best extent possible with other users of the immediate area
  • Communicate with the DMR, riparian owners, harbormaster, local fishermen and aquaculturists
  • Be careful and complete when filling out an application for a Lease or License.

DMR Aquaculture Pages are a great resource. And all necessary paperwork for leases and licenses can be downloaded at: An important first step is to contact the Maine DMR Aquaculture Administrator and Hearings Officer:

Diantha Robinson

Maine Dept. of Marine Resources
21 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0021

As always, feel free to get in touch with any questions regarding licensing or permitting.