Board of Trustees
The Florida Legislature and the Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, have recognized that it is in the state's economic, resource and food production interests to promote aquacultural production by leasing sovereign submerged lands*. Florida's Aquaculture Lease Program for sovereignty submerged state lands and the overlying water column is administered by the Division of Aquaculture's Bureau of Aquaculture Development. The policies, conditions, and criteria for using sovereign state lands for aquacultural production are provided in the Florida Aquaculture Policy Act and the Florida Administrative Code, with authorization for their use from the Governor and Cabinet.
*Sovereign Submerged Lands: State waters in the Atlantic Ocean is three (3) nautical miles seaward from shore and in the Gulf of Mexico it is nine (9) nautical miles seaward from shore. A nautical mile is defined as 6,076.11549 feet.
Persons wishing to lease submerged lands to conduct aquacultural activities must submit a written application as prescribed in Section 253.69, Florida Statutes (F.S.), and Chapter 18-21, Florida Administrative Code. The Division of Aquaculture will provide an application form [PDF], guidelines for completing the application, and a list of steps involved in the application review and approval processes.
Lease Development Process
Aquaculture lease application guidelines, pursuant to section 253.68, F.S., divide the process into four steps. The first step involves identifying a lease site, describing the proposed activity and developing a business plan. This is followed by a comprehensive review. The comprehensive review may take from four to six weeks, depending upon the complexity of the application. As part of the review process, a site inspection will be made by staff to determine whether or not the site is appropriate for leasing for the proposed use. In cases where the proposed locations are performed not to be suitable, additional filled surveys and site inspections may be necessary to modify the initial site boundaries. When the application is deemed to be complete, a notice of the lease application is provided to local entities. Finally, any lease of state-owned submerged lands must be authorized by the Governor and Cabinet in their role as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund.
Aquaculture Docks and Structures
Authorization from the Board of Trustees is required to construct and operate an aquaculture dock or similar structure on or over sovereignty submerged lands. There are two forms of authorization that apply to aquaculture docks: 1) an aquaculture lease and 2) an aquaculture Letter of Consent. Aquaculture activities that require the use of sovereignty submerged lands and are not included in an aquaculture lease may be authorized by an aquaculture letter of consent. The standards, criteria and approval processes for both forms of authorization are provided in Chapter 18-21.020 [DOC] and 18-21.021 [DOC], Florida Administrative Code. Typically, an aquaculture letter of consent will be used as the form of authorization when the area covered by the dock or structure includes less than 2,000 square feet and the construction and operation comply with the best management practices provided in Chapter 5L-3, F.A.C. Authorized aquaculture activities include hatchery and nursery cultivation, intake and discharge pipes, areas for loading and offloading aquaculture products and mooring up to four aquaculture-associated vessels. An aquaculture letter of consent is specifically restricted to aquaculture activities, no other commercial activities may take place under this authorization.