Cultivation of marine and freshwater organisms.

The cultivation of marine and freshwater organisms is a very diverse segment of the Massachusetts agriculture industry. The Commonwealth’s aquaculture industry produces aquatic species for food, education, ornamental, bait and sport fishing activities, including 6 species of shellfish and 10 species of finfish that are cultured experimentally and commercially.

The Aquaculture Specialist's Office at the Department of Agricultural Resources provides a variety of services aimed at the promotion and development of Massachusetts aquaculture. The Aquaculture Program, located within the Division of Agricultural Conservation and Technical Assistance, fosters development of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Industry through efforts aimed at implementation of the Commonwealth’s Aquaculture Strategic Plan.


CCCE/Woods Hole Sea Grant/SEMAC contracted with the UMASS Center for Marketing Research to conduct an economic survey of the aquaculture industry in Massachusetts. Sample of results include:

  • The output of the shellfish aquaculture industry in Massachusetts was valued at approximately $25.4m in 2013, which in turn generated approximately$45.5m in the Massachusetts economy, or 1.79 times the activity.
  • Shellfish farmers were responsible for approximately 909 jobs.
  • Shellfish farmers paid approximately $11.9m in wages in 2013. Their economic activity generated additional labor income of $8.2m, for a total of approximately $20.1m in labor income in MA.

Aquaculture Education

Education is an important component of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Development plan. Aquaculture education, in academic settings as well as public forums, cultivates industry development by generating appropriately targeted research, encouraging workforce development, promoting public awareness and cultivating potential aquaculturists. In Massachusetts , where public and municipal entities often have bearing over aquaculture project development, public awareness is especially critical toward aquaculture development.

With the importance of education in mind, a number of efforts have been undertaken to promote academic and public education opportunities. Relationships that have enabled strong collaboration and the sharing of resources have been formed, such as with the Aquaculture Centers , SEMACNEMAC and WMCSA, which have facilitated educating the public about aquaculture and keeping the industry aware of new technology.


Aquaculture Industry

The Massachusetts aquaculture industry is a very diverse sector of the Commonwealth’s agriculture industry. Although the cultivation of aquatic species (specifically shellfish and crustaceans) was practiced by the Native Americans and later by the colonists on Cape Cod, it was not until the 1970s when more efficient cultivation techniques were developed that commercial cultivation activities began. Since that time aquaculture in Massachusetts has grown to include more than 15 species of fish and shellfish that are cultivated for food, research, biomedical, sport and ornamental purposes.

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries reported that the Massachusetts shellfish aquaculture industry generated more than $6.2 million in 2006. At that time, there were more than 350 individuals and companies involved in aquaculture in Massachusetts with nearly 300 as marine shellfish culture enterprises growing primarily Quahogs (hard shell clam) and American oyster. The Commonwealth’s finfish growers produce a variety of species of finfish, including barramundi, tilapia, largemouth bass, black sea bass, brown bullhead, several species of trout, and several species of baitfish.

Although there are a number of institutions, organizations and government entities involved in the Bay State’s aquaculture industry, the primary trade group working for the industry is the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association.

Permit Assistance / Regulatory Streamlining

Regulatory streamlining has often been cited as an effort that is crucial for continued, efficient development of aquaculture in the United States. Similarly, the Massachusetts Aquaculture White Paper and Strategic Plan recognized the need for streamlining the regulatory process in order to facilitate industry expansion. To that end a variety of recommendations aimed at providing permit assistance and simplifying the permit process were among the priority recommendations identified by the Plan.

With the above in mind a number of steps have been taken in effort to facilitate the permitting of aquaculture facilities in Massachusetts. As a first step toward streamlining the permit process for aquaculture enterprises the Massachusetts Aquaculture Permits Guidance Document was created. Through the efforts of the Permit Streamlining Sub-Committee of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Advisory Group, it was determined that in order to examine how the permit process could be streamlined all permits that may be applicable for any activity associated with any form of aquaculture must be identified. To that end, the Guidance Document identified and defined all permits and regulatory authority in Massachusetts in accordance with four primary areas of regulatory concern; species to be cultivated, structures may be employed, water source, water/waste discharge. The Guidance Document also includes a checklist that can assist in identifying all permits that may be applicable for any aquaculture facility proposed for Massachusetts.

The Aquaculture Operation Description Form is a two-page "fill in the blank" form that, once completed, provides a snap shot description of the proposed project. The Description Form should be the starting place for the permitting of any aquaculture operation in Massachusetts. Following submittal of the completed form to the Department of Agricultural Resources Aquaculture Specialist, the applicant is either directed to the appropriate regulatory agency for permit application materials or a meeting is arranged, including representatives from all appropriate regulatory agencies.

More information about the permit process for aquaculture operations can be obtained by contacting the Department’s Aquaculture Specialist at

Technical Assistance & Information Resources

Through scientific research and old-fashioned ingenuity, aquaculture technology and culture methods progress constantly. There is a persistent need for the transfer of this information to the aquaculture industry. Fortunately, there are a number of technical and informational resources available in Massachusetts and abroad. The Department of Agricultural Resources retains an aquaculture resource library that is available for review by appointment at the MDAR office in Boston . Massachusetts is also fortunate to have three regional state aquaculture centers located in Southeastern (SEMAC), Northeastern (NEMAC), and Western (WMCSA), Massachusetts . In addition to staff expertise at each of the centers, they also house a great deal of aquaculture information. SEMAC has also established a number of satellite resource centers at regional public libraries throughout Southeastern Massachusetts . The centers are an excellent resource for technical outreach and industry support.


Did you find the information you were looking for on this page? * required
We use your feedback to help us improve this site but we are not able to respond directly. Please do not include personal or contact information. If you need a response, please locate contact information elsewhere on this page or in the footer.
Tell us what you think