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Lease Program Overview

Aquaculture in Suffolk County’s Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program

What is Shellfish Aquaculture?

The term Shellfish Aquaculture as it is defined in the Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program is the equivalent of Shellfish Cultivation. Shellfish Cultivation is the controlled, or partially controlled, raising, breeding, growing, and containment of shellfish in any marine hatchery or through on-bottom or off-bottom culture as permitted by the County of Suffolk, New York State Fish and Wildlife Law (N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law Article 11), and other applicable Federal, State, and local laws, and regulations.

Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments. The term aquaculture refers to the cultivation of both marine and freshwater species and can range from land-based to open-ocean production.

Shellfish Aquaculture in Suffolk County's Aquaculture Lease Program

Pursuant to Chapter 425, Laws of New York 2004 (2004 Leasing Law), as codified in New York State Environmental Conservation Law §13-0302, the State of New York ceded title to approximately 110,000 acres of underwater lands in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay to Suffolk County for the purpose of shellfish cultivation, and authorized the County to prepare, adopt and implement a shellfish aquaculture lease program for this region.

In August 2009, after a rigorous four year development process, the Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay (Lease Program) was established by Suffolk County Local Law No. 25-2009 (Chapter 475, Article II of the Suffolk County Code). This new program provided secure access to marine space within the Shellfish Cultivation Zone for private, commercial shellfish aquaculture in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay. The Shellfish Cultivation Zone, which was also developed and adopted by the County by Local Law 25-2009 included historic, private oyster grants; Temporary Marine Area Use Assignments (TMAUAs) that had been issued by the NYSDEC prior to the implementation of the Lease Program; and other contiguous areas where the impacts/conflicts of shellfish aquaculture activities on environmental resources/socio-economic concerns would be minimal. While the County is authorized to issue leases within the Shellfish Cultivation Zone for shellfish cultivation, the County’s authority does not extend to the regulation of this activity. As such, the County controls: the location of shellfish farms through issuance of leases on underwater land within a formally adopted Shellfish Cultivation Zone; and the extent and intensity of aquaculture use through limits on lease size and number. State and Federal regulatory agencies (i.e. The Army Corps. Of Engineers, US Coast Guard, NYSDEC) determine the type and number of shellfish species that may be cultivated, methods of cultivation and harvest/handling of farmed shellfish via regulatory permits. For more information on the initial development of the Lease Program, please go to the Program Development section of this website.

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901