Apply For Your Site

The last initial step for starting a sea farm is to apply for a lease or LPA. The application process can seem intimidating, but it’s all information you should already know at this point. Hand-drawn schematics are just as good as computer generated ones, so don't be intimidated. The key is to be thorough and honest in your application.



Site Application Questions

You must apply to the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) through the Division of Aquaculture. The Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies will also review your application in coordination with DMR.

There are three different types:

  • A limited purpose aquaculture license, or LPA, is a renewable annual license that allows you to get on the water quickly and test the viability of a site before investing considerable time and money into a commercial size lease. An LPA can only be 400 sq. ft., which is too small for a stand-alone commercial farm.

  • An experimental lease is a 3-year lease for up to 4-acres that can be obtained within a year provided there is no opposition. If there is opposition, DMR is required to hold a public hearing, which increases the review time considerably. Experimental leases allow growers to test a site at a semi-commercial scale, before applying for a long-term standard lease.

  • A standard lease is a 20-year lease for up to 100 acres and is the best type of lease for a commercial marine sea farm. In many cases, it makes good sense to progress from LPA to experimental lease to standard lease as you learn how best to grow your crops and perfect your operations, but a standard lease should be your eventual goal.

LPAs are typically reviewed within a matter of weeks. Experimental leases that do not face opposition are typically reviewed within 6 – 12 months. Standard leases vary considerably based on a few factors but processing time ranges from 6 months to 3 years.

Community engagement! Spend time getting to know how coastal stakeholders use the area and be honest about what you would like to do. You should listen to their concerns and suggestions and do your best to fit into what already goes on in the area. Submitting a complete and accurate application can shorten processing time because it allows DMR to review it right away instead of contacting you to get additional information.

A riparian owner is a shorefront property owner whose property boundaries are within 1,000 feet of proposed lease boundaries or <300 feet for LPAs. You are required to notify riparian landowners of your lease or LPA as part of the permitting process required by the Department of Marine Resources. You must provide a list of the riparian owners to the Department of Marine Resources that has been certified by the town clerk. You can find that form here.

In general, you cannot put a sea farm in an area that is frequently used for commercial or recreational activities such as fishing, sailing, shipping, accessing a private dock; or where it might cause negative environmental effects such as directly on top of an eelgrass bed. The Department of Marine Resources reviews applications strictly based on ‘decision criteria’ that are spelled out in state law and the federal agencies review based on a suite of federal laws relating to fish, endangered species, habitat, navigation, etc.

  • Contact DMR Division of Aquaculture and Bureau of Public Health staff long before you apply to make sure you understand the rules and requirements.
  • Engage local stakeholders early in the process of identifying a site that meets your business goals to hear their concerns and do your best to address them (within reason) and minimize conflict.
  • Pick a site that doesn’t violate any ‘decision criteria’.
  • Submit a complete application that is accurate and includes all required information. DMR will deem your application ‘incomplete’ and send it back to you or ask for additional information if you miss any required information.
  • Be nice. You catch a lot more bees with honey than vinegar.

The Bureau of Public Health is the arm of the Department of Marine Resources that makes sure seafood harvested or grown in Maine’s waters are safe for public consumption. The direct implications for your business are the location of your farm (not in polluted waters), when you can sell (sales are sometimes prohibited seasonally or during periods of heavy rain), and how to safely and legally transport and sell your product.

Site Application Resources