Leasing Shellfish Grounds & New Lease Opportunities

Leasing Policy

The Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture leases grounds in certified shellfish growing areas of Long Island Sound for the purpose of planting, cultivating, and harvesting shellfish. 

Shellfish grounds are leased through competitive bids, with a minimum bid of $4.00/acre pursuant to C.G.S. 26-194. There are just over 60,000 acres farmed by the shellfish industry. A lease is granted for a 3-10 year term with renewal option, provided the lessee has paid rental fees. Leases will be granted by the Commissioner of Agriculture to the highest bidder. There are also approximately 12,000 acres leased or licensed by local shellfish commissions. To learn more about accessing shellfish grounds in town waters, reach out to the shellfish commission in the town of interest.

All bids must be accompanied by a check, payable to the Commissioner of Agriculture, for one year's rental fee. If an applicant is not the highest bidder, the application fee and the one-year rental fee will be returned. The successful bidder pays the costs of the application fee; one-year rental fee in advance; $35.00 per corner to cover surveying cost; any poles, buoys, buoy stones, floats, and rope used in connection with the surveying of the lease; and the legal notice fee of $100.00 (more or less). Materials may be furnished by the Department and billed to the lessee.

Notice of the application is advertised by the Commissioner of Agriculture for one day in a newspaper having a daily circulation in the town or city where the oyster grounds are located and on the DoAG website. Advertisements must appear at least ten days before the date set for the bid opening. It is the DoAG policy that all new leases are posted to the DoAG website on or before the 15th of the month with the bid opening the first week of the following month. 

It is the policy of the Department of Agriculture that leases be square or rectangular in shape. Prior to June 9, 2022, there was a policy requiring a 50 acre minimum and 200 acre maximum per bid. The new Department policy requires a 5 acre minimum and 200 acre maximum per bid. Leases are still required to be square or rectangular in shape.

The 50 acre minimum policy was instituted in 2004. The aim of this policy was to protect the interest of shellfish companies, due to hard clam shellfish companies who were routinely creating small, irregularly shaped new leases around an existing competitor's lease. In some circumstances, three sides of an existing lease where impacted by a horseshoe-shaped polygon. Continuous complaints to our office and the DEEP required the implementation of this policy, as neither agency had the resources and staffing to respond to constant complaints. The policy was extremely effective and worked to satisfactorily reduce complaints and the expansion of similar predatory leasing. The implementation of the vessel monitoring system in 2018, and the July 1, 2022 license requirement that all vessels operating under an agency issued Combined Harvest and Relay Shellstock Shipper 1 license must be actively transmitting have strengthened the protection of adjoined lease boundaries, eliminating the need for a minimum lease acreage. This policy unintendedly impeded the growth of new shellfish companies by creating an additional financial burden for start-ups who desire to grow shellfish in bottom cages that only require five acres, and harvesters wishing to employ traditional harvest techniques. At the time of implementing the new policy, effective June 9, 2022, more than 65% of the 1,000 state shellfish parcels and 95% of the 660 town shellfish parcels were less than 50 acres. This policy change will promote equity in the shellfish lease program by creating additional opportunities for smaller operations and new shellfish companies. 


New Shellfish Lease Opportunities

Westport Approved: 24-03