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Aquaculture Facility Licensing Details & FAQ


Who needs a license?

You will need an Aquaculture Facility Registration if you will be commercially culturing, producing, growing, using, propagating, harvesting, transporting, importing, exporting, or marketing approved aquaculture species under the Michigan Aquaculture Act. These species include: lake sturgeon, paddlefish, arctic grayling, atlantic salmon, brown trout, brook trout, splake, lake trout, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, pink salmon, rainbow trout, lake whitefish, lake herring, muskellunge, northern pike, tiger muskie, common carp, goldfish, creek chub, bowfin, redbelly dace, finescale dace, common shiner, golden shiner, emerald shiner, bluntnose minnow, fathead minnow, black bullhead, yellow bullhead, brown bullhead, channel catfish, flathead catfish, burbot, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white crappie, black crappie, hybrid crappie, warmouth, rock bass, green sunfish, bluegill, hybrid bluegill, pumpkinseed, redear sunfish, sauger, walleye, saugeye, yellow perch, bigmouth buffalofish, white perch, white bass, tilapia, prawn, crayfish, brine shrimp, shrimp, mahi-mahi, haddock, cod, halibut, snapper, grouper, red drum, tuna, flounder, pompano, snook, and mackerel.

You will need an Aquaculture Research Permit if you wish to commercially culture, produce, grow, use, propagate, harvest, transport, import, export, or market species of fish NOT approved under the Michigan Aquaculture Development Act.

You do not need an Aquaculture Research Permit or Aquaculture Facility Registration if you are operating a retail bait outlets, retail ornamental fish facilities, persons using privately controlled waters for noncommercial purposes, public aquariums or zoos, and portable retail fishing concessions.


What fees are required in order to operate an aquaculture facility in Michigan?

  • Aquaculture Facility Registration: The fee to establish a new business is $100. From there, there is a yearly renewal fee of $75.
  • Aquaculture Research Permit: The fee to establish a new business is $ 250. From there, it is a yearly renewal fee of $ 100.

How do I apply for an Aquaculture Facility Registration or Aquaculture Research Permit?

  1. Review the associated laws and regulations (below) as well as the additional materials (also below) pertaining to aquaculture facilities. Knowledge of these laws is required before a registration or permit will be issued.

  2. If you desire to work with species not on the approved species list under the Michigan Aquaculture Act, you will need to apply for an Aquaculture Research Permit. Please note that your facility must not be in a 100 year old flood plain, the water must not be discharged to natural waters, the discharged water must be treated to remove biological contaminants, and the facility must be escape proof. You will need to submit a research protocol along with your application. This protocol needs to include the source of fish, a description of handling and culturing activities, and the method of disposition of the fish.

  3. Review and complete the Facility and Research Permit Registration Application providing all of the information requested. If a section is not applicable, please put a line through that section.(Click here for aid in completing application form.)

  4. Submit the completed application (and research protocol if applying for an Aquaculture Research Permit), along with a check or money order for the appropriate fee ($100 for an Aquaculture Facility Registration or $250 for an Aquaculture Research Permit), payable to State of Michigan to: Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, Animal Industry Division, PO Box 30776, Lansing, MI 48909-8276.

  5. After your application has been approved and processed, a Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) employee will contact you to verify that your facility is ready for inspection. If the facility is ready for inspection, a MDARD inspector, typically a Field Veterinarian will then contact you within thirty days of the receipt of the application to set-up and conduct a pre-registration or pre-permit inspection of the facility. He or she will bring you a copy of the Great Lakes Fish Disease Control Policy and Model Program booklet. There are two inspections allowed per application. If the facility doesn't pass those two inspections, a new application and fee will need to be submitted.
  6. Upon completion of the pre-registration or pre-permit inspection, the inspection report is sent to the Lansing office for a manager's review. Once the facility has passed inspection and managerial review, the application must be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources for review. Once the application has been approved by the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development will issue and mail the registration or permit. Please note that if there are problems found by the inspector, the manager, or the Department of Natural Resources, you will be given suggestions for improvement.

  7. After receiving the registration or permit, you may then conduct business as an aquaculture facility. Please note that your registration or permit expire yearly on September 30th. You must renew your registration or permit by September 30th each year or you may be subject to penalties. You will receive a renewal promptly by mail each year.

How long does it take to process my first-time application?

MDARD strives to provide a timely response to aquaculture registration and permit applications. Typically it takes 4-8 weeks to receive a registration or permit.

Processing may take considerably longer if your application is incomplete for any of the following reasons:

  • The application is received without the license fee - a letter and a copy of the application will be returned to the sender. The application will not be processed until the form has been returned with the correct fee.
  • Portions of the application are left blank -- a letter and a copy of the application will be returned with to the sender with the blank fields marked. Please note that we must have a business phone number as well as a complete listing of all species of aquaculture fish to be at your facility. The application will not be processed until the form has been completed in its entirety and returned.
  • Payment is received without an application. MDARD collects fees for many different types of licenses and fees. Any funds that are sent to MDARD are received initially by the department's finance office. The type of application accompanying the funds tells the cashier to which of several divisions or programs to forward the materials. If there is no application, the money may be forwarded to another division. If the animal industry division receives a copy of the check, the division will send out an application with a letter to the address sited on the check. The application will not be processed until the department receives the completed application.
  • For an Aquaculture Research Permit Application, the application and fee are received without the research protocol. -- a letter will be sent to the sender. The application will not be processed until a copy of the protocol has been submitted.

Your registration or permit can not be issued until you pass an inspection. As such, your registration or permit may also be delayed if your facility does not pass inspection or is not fully constructed. If your facility does not pass inspection, the department will provide feedback at the time of inspection for improvement as well as a re-inspection date.

You can help speed the processing of your application by being sure your application is complete and includes the correct fee; by thoroughly reviewing the laws, regulations, and other documents provided here; and by making sure your facility is constructed and ready for inspection.


If we have sent in an application, when can we begin operating an aquaculture facility?

Once you receive your registration or permit from MDARD, you may then begin to operate an Aquaculture Facility or an Aquaculture Research Facility. You must not commercially culture, produce, grow, use, propagate, harvest, transport, import, export, or market species of fish until you have received your registration or permit.


When does my registration or permit expire?

Both the Aquaculture Facility Registration and the Aquaculture Research Permit expire yearly on September 30th. As it is against the law to operate without a registration or permit, you must renew your registration or permit prior to December 31st. Please note that applications received after October 31st must pay the initial registration or permit fee ($100 for an Aquaculture Facility Registration or $250 for an Aquaculture Research Facility Permit).


How do I renew my Aquaculture Facility Registration or Aquaculture Research Permit?

A renewal application will be mailed to all registered or permitted facilities by the end of July each year. Complete the application and submit it to the department with the renewal fee ($75 for an aquaculture facility registration and $100 for an aquaculture research facility permit).

Please note that you must apply as a new facility if there has been a change in ownership/management or address. You may not simply renew your application if any of these changes have occurred. (See "What should I do if there are changes in type of aquaculture species on premise or in company ownership, name, or address?" below.)


Is there anything I can so to speed the issuance of my registration or permit?

You can help speed the processing of your application by being sure your application is complete and includes the correct fee; by thoroughly reviewing the laws, regulations, and other documents; and by making sure your facility is constructed and ready for inspection


What should I do if there are changes in type of aquaculture species on premise or in company ownership, name, or address?

If there is a change in business address or ownership, the registration or permit does not transfer. As such, the registration or permit for the old address/owner becomes inactive. When such a change occurs, the applicant must submit a new application (including a new protocol if applying for an Aquaculture Research Permit) with the new registration or permit fee immediately. We will need to conduct a new inspection to make sure that the facility meets the requirements of the regulations. In addition, we will review the requirements with the new owner at the visit. Once the facility has passed inspection and the issuance of a registration or permit has been approved by the program manager, a registration or permit will be issued for the new business location or owner. Once the registration or permit is received, the business may then operate as an Aquaculture Facility or an Aquaculture Research Facility.

If your business changes its business name under which it is registered or permitted, but remains under the same ownership and address, please submit a completed copy of the application reflecting the changes immediately so that the license and records can be updated accordingly. You will receive an updated registration or permit in the mail reflecting the change.

If there is a change in species on premise and you have an Aquaculture Facility Permit, please submit a completed copy of the application reflecting the changes immediately so that we may update our records. Please note that the species must be approved aquaculture species under the Michigan Aquaculture Act. You will receive an updated registration in the mail reflecting the change.


Laws and Regulations

The laws relative to Aquaculture are (follow the links):

  • Act 466, PA of 1988, Animal Industry Act
    An act to authorize and require the appointment of a state veterinarian within the department of agriculture; to protect the human food chain and the livestock and aquaculture industries of the state through prevention, control, and eradication of infectious, contagious, or toxicological diseases of livestock and other animals.

Additional Materials

  • Focus on Fish Health: VHS
    Information on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) from the Center for Food Security and Public Health.
  • MDARD Marketing Guide
    This link provides access to the MDARD Marketing Guide which can help assist aquaculture businesses in marketing their product, locating grants, and creating business plans.

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