Chapter 5. Leasing Of State Water Bottoms of California Fish And Game Code >> Division 12. >> Chapter 5.
(a) 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.
(b) 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:
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) 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
(4) 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
(5) 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
(6) 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
(7) 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.
(8) 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
(9) 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.
(10) 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
(c) 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:
(1) 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) A scientific collecting or research permit issued by the
(B) 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
(2) 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
(d) 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.
Areas used by the public for digging clams shall not be
leased. The department shall designate those areas.
A lessee of a state water bottom owns all lawfully
cultivated organisms that are described in the application for the
lease and produced in the area leased. The lessee has the exclusive
right to cultivate and harvest the aquatic organisms in the area
Persons wishing to lease a state water bottom shall make a
written application to the commission. An application shall contain
all of the following information:
(a) A map showing the area to be leased, its general vicinity, and
all ownership and boundary lines in the vicinity.
(b) A description of the organisms to be grown and the culture
techniques to be used.
(c) An estimate of the acreage to be leased.
(d) A nonrefundable filing fee of five hundred dollars ($500).
The lessee shall assume responsibility for any infringement on
privately owned water bottoms, or water bottoms owned by, or under
the jurisdiction of any city, county, or district.
(a) If the commission finds that the area applied for is
available for lease and that the lease would be in the public
interest, it shall publish a notice that the area is being considered
(b) The commission shall have legal notices published in a
newspaper of general circulation in each county where the water
bottom, or any part thereof, is located, describing the area to be
leased and the type of operation to be conducted. The publication
shall comply with Sections 6060 and 6066 of the Government Code.
(a) Except as specified in subdivision (b), no initial term
of a state water bottom lease shall exceed 25 years.
(b) The initial term of a state water bottom lease for marine
finfish aquaculture shall not exceed 10 years.
(a) Each state water bottom lease shall specify a period
prior to expiration when renewal of the lease may be requested by the
lessee. If during this period the lessee is still actively engaged
in aquaculture, as determined by the commission, the lessee shall
have a prior right to renew the lease on terms agreed upon between
the commission and the lessee. If terms are not agreed upon, the
commission shall advertise for bids on the lease. If a request for
renewal is not made by the lessee, the commission shall advertise for
bids on the lease. The commission shall consider bids only from
aquaculturists registered pursuant to Section 15101.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), with respect to any lease of
state water bottoms in effect on January 1, 1983, the lessee shall
have a prior right to renew the lease. If the lessee does not renew
the lease, the commission shall advertise for bids on the lease. The
commission shall consider bids only from aquaculturists registered
pursuant to Section 15101.
(c) Except as specified in subdivision (d), a lease may be renewed
for additional periods not to exceed 25 years each.
(d) A lease for marine finfish aquaculture may be renewed for
additional periods not to exceed five years each.
(a) Except as specified in subdivision (b), the commission
shall award water bottom leases to the highest responsible bidder,
if the bid meets or exceeds the minimum annual rent established by
the commission, which shall not be less than two dollars ($2) per
acre, for all species cultivated, unless the acreage applied for is
10 acres or less, in which case the minimum acceptable rent shall be
ten dollars ($10) per acre. The annual rent for any lease in effect
on January 1, 1983, for the cultivation of oysters shall be one
dollar ($1) per acre until the expiration thereof. The commission may
reject any or all bids for the lease of state water bottoms if it
deems the rejection to be in the public interest.
(b) Fees for marine finfish aquaculture leases shall, at a
minimum, be sufficient to pay for the costs of administering the
marine finfish leasing program, and for monitoring and enforcing the
terms of the leases.
(a) In addition to the rent provided in Section 15406.5,
every person operating under an oyster lease shall pay a privilege
tax of four cents ($0.04) per packed gallon, or fraction thereof, of
shucked oysters harvested by the lessee.
(b) If the oysters are marketed in the shell, the tax shall be
based on the equivalent yield of shucked oyster meat. In determining
the yield of oysters, it shall be deemed that 100 oysters are
equivalent to one packed gallon of shucked oyster meat.
(c) The tax imposed by this section is the exclusive privilege tax
that shall be imposed on lessees of state water bottoms for oyster
cultivation, notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 15003.
The annual rent shall be paid to the department within 30
days of the commencement of the lease and within 30 days of the
anniversary thereof. The commission may establish penalty fees for
late payment and may cancel the lease if rent is not paid within 90
days of the commencement of the lease or within 90 days of any
The commission shall promulgate regulations governing the
termination of leases due to failure to pay rent or improper use of
(a) Upon termination of a lease, for any reason, all
structures shall be removed at the lessee's expense from the
leasehold, and the area shall be restored to its original condition.
If the lessee fails to remove the structures, the state may remove
them and the lessee shall pay the removal costs incurred.
(b) The commission shall require financial assurances of each
marine finfish aquaculture lessee to ensure that restoration is
performed to the satisfaction of the commission. Financial assurances
may take the form of surety bonds executed by an admitted surety
insurer, irrevocable letters of credit, trust funds, or other forms
of financial assurances specified by the commission, as it determines
are available and adequate to ensure the lease site is restored
pursuant to this section.
(c) Marine finfish aquaculture lessees shall be responsible for
any damages caused by their operations, as determined by the
commission, including, but not limited to, reimbursement for any
costs for natural resource damage assessment.
(d) Nothing in this section limits the state in pursuing
additional remedies authorized by law.
All leases shall be subject to the power of the Legislature
to increase or decrease the rents, fees, taxes, and other charges
relating to the lease, but no increase in rent shall be applicable to
an existing lease until it is renewed.
Lessees under a state water bottom lease may not
unreasonably impede public access to state waters for purpose of
fishing, navigation, commerce, or recreation. The lessee may,
however, limit public access to the extent necessary to avoid damage
to the leasehold and the aquatic life culture therein.
The commission may prohibit any recreational activity in any
aquaculture area subject to a state water bottom lease if it
determines that the activity is detrimental to the enhancement of the
No water bottom lease may be assigned without the prior
approval of the commission. Application for approval of a lease
assignment shall comply with all of the requirements for an original
No person may enter upon any area subject to a water bottom
lease in which aquatic life is cultivated, or remove the aquatic life
therefrom without the consent of the lessee, or willfully destroy
the cultivated aquatic life or any markers intended to designate the
boundaries and limits of the leased area.
A water bottom lease may require periodic reports that the
commission deems necessary for the proper administration of the state'
s water bottoms.
The department shall notify the State Lands Commission of
all applications for water bottom leases.
The department shall inform the State Lands Commission of all
leases executed, renewed, or assigned pursuant to this chapter, and
shall furnish the State Lands Commission with such information
concerning these leases that it may require.