Marine Aquaculture

Aquaculture is the process of raising and harvesting plants or animals in an aquatic environment. Marine aquaculture has a long history in California beginning with oyster culture in the late 1800s. The CDFW is the lead agency for leasing and permitting of marine aquaculture on state and private water bottoms in bays and estuaries, and ensures that marine resources and essential habitat are protected. In California, marine aquaculture for commercial purposes is currently limited to oysters, abalone, clams, and mussels.

Project staff is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Review and set terms and conditions for all marine importation permits, broodstock collection permits, and aquaculture registration forms
  • Maintain the State marine aquaculture production database, administer annual proof-of-use reporting, and maintain lease rental and production tax records
  • Provide assistance with lease renewal process for aquaculturists and negotiate lease terms and conditions
  • Develop recommendations for Fish and Game Commission action
  • Draft responses to referral letters
  • Review aquaculture CEQA documents, provide aquaculture expertise and coordinate with Marine Region Environmental Services, CDFW Legal Services, other CDFW Regions, and other state and federal agencies
  • Coordinate and assist the Marine Region Shellfish Health Laboratory for eradication of sabellid worm infestation in commercial abalone hatcheries and aquaria, and implement the Sabellid-Free Certification Program
  • Coordinate disease and health certification for shellfish and other imported animals
Inspection of aquaculture operations on Tomales Bay. CDFW photo by Tom Moore
Sabellid inspection Monterey abalone farm. CDFW photo by Jim Moore


Sara Briley, Marine Aquaculture Coordinator
Phone: (562) 342-7161

Kathryn Johnson, Environmental Scientist
Phone: (562) 342-7179

James Ray, Environmental Scientist
Phone: (707) 441-5755