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Division of Land Use Regulation
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Aquaculture Activities

  • Overview
  • Freshwater Wetlands
  • Flood Hazard
  • Coastal
  • Tidelands

Aquaculture, specifically activities related to shellfish aquaculture, includes the propagation, rearing, and subsequent harvesting of shellfish in controlled or selected environments as well the processing, packaging, and marketing of the harvested shellfish.  Shellfish aquaculture also includes activities that intervene in the rearing process to increase production such as stocking, feeding, transplanting, and providing for protection from predators.  Aquaculture activities are strongly encouraged in New Jersey’s coastal waters.  Shellfish aquaculture is considered one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors and is vital to the economy of coastal communities in New Jersey. 

Aquaculture activities which disturb “special areas” regulated by the Department, may require multiple permits from the Division of Land Use Regulation prior to site preparation or construction. The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb.  Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required.  Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed activity relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted. 

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to aquaculture activities.  For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab.  Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the "Tidelands" tab.

It is unlikely that aquaculture activities would impact freshwater wetlands. Should an area of coastal wetlands be impacted by this activity, and should that coastal wetland not appear on the promulgated coastal wetlands mapping, then the Department will likely take jurisdiction over that wetland under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act and Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules. Please see the Freshwater Wetlands Section of this website for more information.

The Division of Land Use Regulation anticipates that the majority of structures related to aquaculture activities will be located both in tidal flood hazard areas and below the mean high water line.  In those cases, the structures are not regulated by the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as long as a coastal permit of any type is obtained from the Division of Land Use Regulation for the project.

If structures are proposed in tidal flood hazard areas, but above the mean high water line, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as part of the coastal permit application. 

In cases where no coastal permit is required, the applicant must obtain approval under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.  Since there are no Flood Hazard Area Permits-by-rule or General Permits specific to aquaculture, a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit would likely be required.

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 for further assistance.

Aquaculture is the use of permanently inundated water areas, whether saline or fresh, for the purposes of growing and harvesting plants or animals in a way to promote more rapid growth, reduce predation, and increase harvest rate.  There are several Permits-by-rule (PBRs) and General Permits (GPs) available for aquaculture activities.  There are no existing exemptions for aquaculture activities.

The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated.  The availability of certain permits depends on the project’s location.

Potentially applicable Permits-by-rule (PBRs):

PBR 16 - authorizes the placement of land-based upwellers and raceways, including intakes and discharges, for aquaculture activities, provided:

  • The structures are located on the upland portion of a lot with a legally existing, functioning bulkhead;
  • No grading, excavation, filling, or placement of a structure(s) is undertaken on a beach, dune, or wetland; and
  • The discharge from the aquaculture activities is to a water body and not directly into a wetland.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.16 for complete rule requirements.

PBR 17 -authorizes the placement of predator screens and oyster spat attraction devices in an area subject to a valid shellfish lease pursuant to N.J.S.A. 50:1-23, provided:

  • So as not to pose a hazard to navigation, predator screens must not extend more than 6” above the substrate and oyster spat attraction devices shall not extend more than 24” above the substrate; and
  • No activity undertaken pursuant to this PBR shall prevent the catching and taking of free swimming fish from the tidal waters of the State in any lawful manner pursuant to N.J.S.A. 50:1-33.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.17 for complete rule requirements.

PBR 18 - authorizes the placement of shellfish cages in an area subject to a valid shellfish lease pursuant to N.J.S.A. 50:1-23, provided:

  • There is a minimum of 4’ of water between the top of any cage and the water surface at mean low water;
  • The cages are continuously checked and repaired to ensure that they are not displaced off the lease area;
  • The cages are constructed of non-polluting materials; and
  • No activity undertaken pursuant to the PBR shall prevent the catching and taking of free swimming fish from the tidal waters of the State in any lawful manner pursuant to N.J.S.A. 50:1-33.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.18 for complete rule requirements. 

Potentially applicable General Permits (GPs):

GP 30 – authorizes commercial shellfish aquaculture activities

GP 31 – authorizes placement of shell within shellfish lease areas

If the proposed project does not meet the requirements of the above described Permits-by-rule or General Permits, the project may require a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 should you require further assistance.

Except for Individual shellfish markers (i.e. a single stick in the water), aquaculture activities occupying water column require a tidelands license if the activities are taking place in a non-granted area that is at or below the mean high water line of a tidal waterway.  A license may also required when agricultural activities are taking place in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide. 

Aquaculture activities are unique in that they take up large areas of land (water) that would otherwise be open waters of the State. In addition, they could be, but are not always, in open water without waterfront access. However, in some cases, like the rack and bag systems, acres of water could be occupied, thereby restricting boat traffic in the area. 

The Tidelands Resource Council (TRC) has acknowledged the unique nature of aquaculture operations and has developed a policy that allows for these activities to be licensed in a manner that fosters aquaculture opportunities in New Jersey waters while fulfilling the Council’s obligation to collect equitable compensation for the utilization of State owned lands.  Please click here to view the TRC’s policy on Aquaculture Activities.

For information and instruction on how to determine whether you are in an area that may require either a license or a grant, or for information how to apply for Tideland instruments please see the tidelands section of this website.

 

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Last Updated: July 6, 2015