The North Carolina Shellfish Siting Tool

The Shellfish Industry

Through North Carolina Sea Grant, a statewide survey of shellfish leaseholders was developed to evaluate various aspects of North Carolina's shellfish industry. Marc Turano (North Carolina Sea Grant), Martin Posey (UNCW), and Troy Alphin (UNCW) undertook this project as a review of site conditions and economic impacts to examine the scope of the shellfish aquaculture industry in North Carolina.

Topics for the survey included:

  • Lease and business information
  • Oyster production
  • Outlook for the industry

The survey and report (PDF) were funded by the NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension and Technology Transfer 2010 program through Grant # NA10OAR4170080.

Bottom Lease Process and Rules

  • Lease Application Fee - $200.00
  • Lease Rental Fee - $10 per acre per year
  • Lease Renewal Fee - $100.00 (every five years from original year of granting)
Process Before Applying for Lease:
  1. Read North Carolina Marine Fisheries Rules for Shellfish Leases prior to submitting an application.
  2. Select a site for a possible lease and complete the application package.
  3. Submit the completed package along with the $200 filing fee.
    • If the application is approved, the $200 check will be processed and the applicant will be notified by letter. Enclosed with the letter will be signs to be posted at the proposed lease site.
    • If the application is denied, a letter will be sent to the applicant stating why application was denied and the unprocessed $200 lease application fee check will be returned.
Process if Lease Application is Approved:
  1. Notify the Resource Enhancement Section of the Division of Marine Fisheries once the proposed lease signs have been posted.
  2. Division biologists will conduct an investigation of the proposed lease site.
  3. A public hearing will be held in the general area where the proposed lease is located if specific criteria are met and the Director recommends approval.
  4. Upon the granting of the lease by the Director, the applicant will be required to provide to the Division, at his or her expense, a survey and written description of the lease site by a licensed surveyor.
  5. If the survey is found to be acceptable, the applicant will pay all fees and rents due in advance and mark his or her lease with permanent lease signs.

Rules for a Shellfish Lease:

The lease area must not contain 10 bushels or more of shellfish per acre.

  • One Bushel equals:
    -- 300 oysters(seed)
    -- 400 clams (seed)
    -- 400 scallops (seed)
    -- 40 lbs. of scallop shell (cultch)
    -- 60 lbs. of oyster shell (cultch)
    -- 75 lbs. of clam shell (cultch)
    -- 90 lbs. of fossil shell (cultch)

The lease area must not be closer than 100 feet to a developed shoreline.

  • Exception: No minimum setback is required when the area to be leased borders the applicant's property or the property of riparian owners who have consented in a notarized statement.
  • Exception: In an area bordered by undeveloped shoreline, no minimum setback is required.

The proposed lease area shall not be less than one-half acre and shall not exceed five acres for all areas.

  • Exception: Areas open to the mechanical harvest of oysters where proposed lease area shall not exceed 10 acres.

For more information, including additional rules and standards, contact:
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, Shellfish Lease and Franchise Program
Phone: (800)-682-2632
Website: Shellfish Lease and Franchise Program