The state Division of Marine Fisheries has exempted aquaculture operations from size and possession limits to make it easier for them to breed more finfish in upland facilities.
The division modified the aquaculture permit conditions to exempt species approved in a facility’s aquaculture operation permit only. The change 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.
The laws were written for fisheries management to regulate wild-caught finfish species, but they presented challenges in managing finfish aquaculture operations. As interest in finfish aquaculture increased, division staff began to review the requirements to better inform aquaculture management in the state, officials said.
“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, in a statement.
Staff also avoided creating an enforcement problem by keeping in place 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 N.C. Marine Patrol Col. Carter Witten.
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, visit the aquaculture permit webpage or contact the Aquaculture Permit Coordinator Zach Harrison at 252-808-8056 or Zach.Harrison@ncdenr.gov.