Shellfish Aquaculture Permit

All aquaculture sites raising shellfish for human consumption in Washington State must obtain a permit from the Department of Health (DOH). Those aquaculture sites that can be described with at least one of the following characteristics must also fill out an Aquaculture Operational Plan (Word) and may be subject to a minimum of one inspection per year.

  • Sites located in waters classified as Prohibited or Unclassified.
  • Sites that attract birds or mammals.
  • Sites that are land-based.  

Hatcheries and nurseries rearing larvae or seed that are located in approved or conditionally approved growing areas are exempt from these requirements. 

Aquaculture sites requiring an operational plan are not authorized to operate until the operational plan is approved and the aquaculture site is permitted by DOH. Once permitted, the aquaculture site will then be subject to a minimum of one inspection per year. During the inspection, DOH will physically inspect the aquaculture site and review all records associated with aquaculture activities. Applicable records that must be reviewed include:

  • The source of shellfish.
  • The source of seed.
  • Water source.
  • Water treatment methods. 

These records must be complete and accurate, and maintained for at least 3 years by the operator of the aquaculture site. 

For more information regarding the AOP and the requirements for permitting an aquaculture site, see Chapter 6 (page 64) in the latest NSSP Guide

Aquaculture means cultivating shellfish in controlled conditions for human consumption. Cultivation includes propagation and growing of shellfish. These activities may occur in natural or man-made water bodies. These activities include seed collection, production, and cultivation in natural water bodies when shellfish are held off the bottom such as the use of racks, bags, or cages, and when shellfish are held in man-made water bodies such as the use of tanks, ponds, or raceways. These activities do not include depuration or wet storage. 

Approved means a classification used to identify a growing area where harvest for direct marketing is allowed. 

Conditionally Approved means a classification used to identify a growing area which meets the criteria for the approved classification except under certain conditions described in a management plan.