CA Fish & Game Code Section 15400


Except as prohibited by Section 15007, the commission may lease state water bottoms or the water column to any person for aquaculture, including, but not limited to, marine finfish aquaculture. Upon appropriation of funds for that purpose, or if funds are otherwise available, the commission shall adopt regulations governing the terms of the leases, after consulting with affected stakeholders in a public process. No state leases shall be issued, unless the commission determines that the lease is in the public interest in a public hearing conducted in a fair and transparent manner, with notice and comment, in accordance with commission procedures. Leases issued, and regulations adopted, pursuant to this section shall not be construed to be fishery management plans.


A person shall not engage in marine finfish aquaculture in ocean waters within the jurisdiction of the state without a lease from the commission. Leases and regulations adopted by the commission for marine finfish aquaculture shall meet, but are not limited to, all of the following standards:


The lease site is considered appropriate for marine finfish aquaculture in the programmatic environmental impact report if prepared and approved by the commission pursuant to Section 15008.


A lease shall not unreasonably interfere with fishing or other uses or public trust values, unreasonably disrupt wildlife and marine habitats, or unreasonably harm the ability of the marine environment to support ecologically significant flora and fauna. A lease shall not have significant adverse cumulative impacts.


To reduce adverse effects on global ocean ecosystems, the use of fish meal and fish oil shall be minimized. Where feasible, alternatives to fish meal and fish oil, or fish meal and fish oil made from seafood harvesting byproducts, shall be utilized, taking into account factors that include, but need not be limited to, the nutritional needs of the fish being raised and the availability of alternative ingredients.


Lessees shall establish best management practices, approved by the commission, for each lease site. Approved best management practices shall include a regular monitoring, reporting, and site inspection program that requires at least annual monitoring of lease sites to ensure that the operations are in compliance with best management practices related to fish disease, escapement, and environmental stewardship, and that operations are meeting the requirements of this section. The commission may remove fish stocks, close facilities, or terminate the lease if it finds that the lessee is not in compliance with best management practices, that the lessee’s activities have damaged or are damaging the marine environment, or that the lessee is not in compliance with this section. The commission shall take immediate remedial action to avoid or eliminate significant damage, or the threat of significant damage, to the marine environment.


Before issuance of the lease, the lessee shall provide baseline benthic habitat and community assessments of the proposed lease site to the applicable regional water quality control board or the State Water Resources Control Board, and shall monitor the benthic habitat and community during the operation of the lease in a manner determined by the regional board or the State Water Resources Control Board. The regional board and the State Water Resources Control Board may establish and impose reasonable permit fees to pay for the costs of administering and conducting the assessment and monitoring program.


Finfish numbers and density shall be limited to what can be safely raised while protecting the marine environment, as specified by the terms of the lease, subject to review and amendment by the commission.


The use of all drugs, chemicals, and antibiotics, and amounts used and applied, shall be minimized. All drugs, therapeutic substances, and antibiotics shall be used and applied only as approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for marine finfish aquaculture. The lessee shall report that use and application to the commission on a regular schedule, as determined by the commission, but no less than annually, that shall be included in the terms of the lease. The commission shall review those reports on a regular basis and at least annually.


The commission shall require all farmed fish to be marked, tagged, or otherwise identified as belonging to the lessee in a manner determined appropriate by the commission, unless the commission determines that identifying farmed fish is unnecessary for protecting wild fish stocks, the marine environment, or other ocean uses.


All facilities and operations shall be designed to prevent the escape of farmed fish into the marine environment and to withstand severe weather conditions and marine accidents. The lessee shall maintain records on all escapes in a manner determined by the commission. In the event of more than de minimis escapement, the number of escaped fish and the circumstances surrounding the incident shall be reported immediately to the commission, and the lessee shall be responsible for damages to the marine environment caused by those escaped fish, as determined by the commission.


The lessee shall, at a minimum, meet all applicable requirements imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board and the regional water quality control boards, and shall prevent discharges to the maximum extent possible. Monitoring and testing of water quality shall be required on a regular basis as deemed appropriate by the State Water Resources Control Board or the regional water quality control boards. All inspection and monitoring reports and other records, and all data on the discharge of chemical and biological pollutants shall be kept on file and available for public review.


If a restoration or enhancement plan is submitted to, and approved by, the commission, and that plan, among other things, provides for monitoring and protecting the benthic habitat, the prevention of pollution, and the prevention of adverse impacts on wild fish stocks from disease, parasites, and genetic alterations, subdivision (b) shall not apply to any of the following:


Artificial propagation, rearing, and stocking projects for the purpose of recovery, restoration, or enhancement of native fish stocks carried out under either of the following:


A scientific collecting or research permit issued by the department.


The California Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program, as set forth in Article 8 (commencing with Section 6590) of Chapter 5 of Part 1 of Division 6, for the enhancement of white sea bass.


Nonprofit hatcheries and nonprofit artificial propagation projects operated by, or on behalf of, licensed commercial or sport fishermen and fisherwomen for the purpose of recovery, restoration, or enhancement of California’s native marine fish populations, pursuant to Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 6900) of Part 1 of Division 6.


Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or expand the application of any other state law or regulation pertaining to marine finfish aquaculture conducted within the ocean waters under the jurisdiction of this state.
Last Updated

Aug. 19, 2023

§ 15400’s source at ca​.gov