Industry Revitalization

Marylandís public oyster fishery and aquaculture industry are both culturally and economically important to citizens of the state. The Department of Natural Resources regulates the public wild oyster fishery as well as on-bottom private oyster aquaculture. The Department sets seasons, fishing areas and daily catch limits annually, and also grants permits to raise oysters on State lands. This section of the website contains resources to help individuals or business persons wishing to apply for leases and aquaculture permits as well as information about the public oyster fishery.


Attention all Leaseholders:

Please be advised that on June 1, 2009, new laws became effective in Maryland that require action on the part of all existing shellfish leaseholders. Failure to comply with the new requirements set out in the amended laws will result in a termination of your lease.

Below are several resources provided to help you understand and comply with the new regulations pertaining to your bottom lease. Should you have questions after reviewing the information provided, please contact Katie Busch at the Department of Natural Resources (410) 260-8342.

Note: the new regulations only pertain to individuals and businesses currently holding bottom leases through the Department of Natural Resources. They do not pertain to off-bottom or water column leases.


SECOND AND FINAL NOTICE mailed to leaseholders who have not yet returned the required forms. Read the letter and view forms that need to be returned by February 16, 2010. Read the letter and view forms



Read the letter and view forms sent to all current bottom leaseholders on November 17, 2009.

On June 1, 2009, new laws became effective in Maryland that require action on the part of all existing shellfish leaseholders. (read the law)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Leaseholder Questions

Prospective Leaseholder Questions

Landowner Questions




Q. Where can I read about the new laws pertaining to leases online?
A. Visit http://www.michie.com/maryland/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp=mdcode

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Q. I am a leaseholder and have not received a letter from the state. Do the new regulations apply to me?
A. Yes. All leaseholders should have received a letter in the mail. Because of changes in address or other circumstances, the letter may not have reached you. If this is the case, you can read the letter online or request a copy from the department. Please contact Katie Busch at (410) 260-8342.

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Q. My lease doesnít run out for 9 years, do the new regulations apply to me?
A. Yes. Existing leases are not exempt. If you review your contract, you will see language permitting the Department to alter the terms of the lease.

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Q. Iíve heard that Demonstration leases are going to be set up all over the bay, and that these leases will block out those who really want to do aquaculture. Is this likely to happen?
A. A network of Demonstration leases may develop over time, but these are limited to 5 acres and can only be held by specific kinds of groups who must actively use them. The Department has considerable discretion in granting leases, and we will be careful to not allow anyone to use this kind of leasing as a tactic. Demonstration leases are not permitted to harvest shellfish for commercial or consumption uses.

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Q. I donít have anything growing on my lease now, how long do I have until I need to plant oysters on my lease?
A. The Department expects leases to be used for oyster aquaculture production in 2010. At least ľ (one quarter) of the leased area must be planted at a minimum density of 1,000,000 shellfish seed per acre or according to plans for lease use agreed to by the Department.

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Q. I understand that there are new reporting requirements for leaseholders. What are the requirements and what format does the annual report need to follow?
A. All leaseholders must submit a plan for active use of the lease in 2010 by December 31, 2009. Beginning in 2010, leaseholders will be required to submit a year end report each year detailing the use of the lease. Examples of these reports will be available on the DNR Shellfish Program website by early 2010.

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Q. So I need to plant oysters, where can I buy oysters to put on my lease?
A. Seed oysters are available at the following locations:
  MD Public Facilities:
  University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Oyster Hatchery   -Cambridge, MD 410-228-8200   http://hpl.umces.edu/facilities/oysters.html

  Department of Natural Resources Piney Point Aquaculture Facility-Piney Point, MD   301-994-0241.

  There are also several private nurseries throughout the state that sell seed oysters.

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Q. I have had my lease for several years and have not ever prepared the bottom for growing oysters. Where can I get shell for this purpose?
A. Shell will be available for purchase starting in the summer of 2010. If you intend to purchase shell, contact Katie Busch (410) 260-8342 to be notified when shell is available.

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Q. Can I transfer a lease, or reduce the size of an existing lease in order to comply with the new law?
A. Yes. Forms will be available in January 2010 to facilitate lease transfers. You may also reduce the size of your lease.

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Q. I have a water column lease does this apply to me
A. No. The new regulations only pertain to bottom leases obtained through the Department of Natural Resources.

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Q. When can I apply for a new lease?
A.We are not currently accepting new applications but expect to begin to accept them during September of 2010.

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Q. Can I place my name on a waiting list?
A. No waiting list for leases will be kept. The Department will announce the opening of the lease program publically and will not accept lease applications until that time.

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Q. What costs are involved in obtaining a bottom lease through the Department of Natural Resources?
A. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources requires a non-refundable $300 application fee to accompany the application form. If the lease is granted, there is an annual fee of $3.50 per acre for submerged land lease. These rates are subject to change.

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Q. How long will it take between sending the lease application and being able to work the lease?
A. For areas outside of an AEZ, expect the process to take several months.

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Q. How can I tell what areas are open for new leases?
A. When the department begins accepting new applications for leases (February 2010) resources will be available on the website for determining what areas are available to be leased.

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Q. I live on the water. Leases have not been allowed in my county for many years but they will be soon. Now that someone can lease the water in front of my house, Iím concerned about how this will affect my property value, my access to open water, and my quality of life.
A. If someone requests a lease directly in front of your property, you will be notified by mail. You will be able to find the details of the lease, and youíll have the opportunity to protest the lease during the public notice period. If you can demonstrate that the lease will have an adverse affect upon your property, the Department can deny the lease or request that it be moved. Under no circumstances will leases be allowed that deny any waterfront landowner access to open water.

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