PA 13-238—sSB 803

Environment Committee

Energy and Technology Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING AQUACULTURE AND THE CULTIVATION OF SEAWEED

SUMMARY: This act allows aquaculture producers to cultivate seaweed and other aquatic plants in Connecticut's coastal waters. By law, the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) commissioner must license and inspect aquaculture producers who cultivate and harvest aquatic animals. The act expands the definition of aquaculture producer to include one who cultivates and harvests aquatic plants, including seaweed, for various purposes (e. g. , food, feed, or fertilizer).

Under the act, to receive an aquaculture producer license, aquatic plant producers must (1) be registered with the U. S. Food and Drug Administration as a food facility, (2) pass inspection by the Department of Consumer Protection, and (3) receive species approval from the DoAg commissioner. The law allows the commissioner to assess civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation and $250 per day of a continuing violation of these licensing requirements (CGS 22-7). He may also issue cease and desist orders (CGS 22-4d).

The act also allows the DoAg commissioner to issue a nontransferable license, for up to five years, to anyone who wants to plant and cultivate seaweed in Connecticut's coastal waters. Anyone issued a seaweed license can buy, possess, ship, transport, or sell seaweed approved by the commissioner. Any such license is subject to an annual fee of $25 per acre. Anyone who has a shellfish grounds lease is exempt from the seaweed license fee.

The act prohibits the commissioner from granting a seaweed license if it would conflict with an “established right” of fishing or shellfishing. (The act does not indicate how someone receives a right. Presumably, a right is established when a person is granted a privilege through a license or contract. ) The act specifies that any seaweed license that interferes with established rights is void. Anyone who interferes with a person's enjoyment of his or her seaweed license is subject to a fine of up to $500, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.

The act authorizes the commissioner to adopt implementing regulations.

Lastly, the act increases deposits into the Shellfish Fund by allowing the commissioner to divert into the fund a portion of the deposits that currently go into the “expand and grow Connecticut agriculture” account.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

AQUATIC PLANTS

The act defines “aquatic plants” as fresh or saltwater algae and plants, including aquatic macrophyte, microalgae, and macroalgae (i. e. , seaweed) species intended for sea vegetable, biofuel, animal feed, fertilizer, medical, industrial, or other commercial applications. “Seaweed” is a marine macroalgae species the commissioner approves for cultivation in Long Island Sound.

SEAWEED LICENSE

Under the act, anyone issued a seaweed license must make a good faith effort to cultivate and harvest seaweed from the licensed area. A license can be renewed. A licensee who meets his or her obligations under the license will be given preference for license renewal for a similar term and purpose. But the commissioner is prohibited from renewing a license if the licensee fails to pay the required license fee. Also, the commissioner cannot renew a license unless he advertises the pendency of the renewal application. The commissioner can deny a license renewal if, for cause, he decides to stop licensing the grounds for seaweed cultivation.

The act allows the DoAg's Bureau of Aquaculture, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Office of Long Island Sound Programs, and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to subject any seaweed licensee to the laws that require permits and authorizations for dredging and erecting and maintaining structures.

SHELLFISH FUND

The act requires the DoAg commissioner to deposit a portion of the fees he collects from utility companies into the Shellfish Fund. Specifically, he must deposit into the Shellfish Fund and the “expand and grow Connecticut agriculture” account 75% of the fee he assesses the owners of certain facilities that cross Long Island Sound (e. g. , electric power lines or gas pipelines). The act allows the commissioner to determine the portion of the 75% to be deposited in each account. Prior law required the entire 75% to be deposited in the expand and grow account. By law, the commissioner must deposit the remaining 25% of the proceeds in the General Fund.

By law, the commissioner collects an annual fee of 40 cents per linear foot of the facility located in Connecticut. The fee applies to facilities that require either (1) a certificate of environmental compatibility from the Connecticut Siting Council or (2) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval.

The law allows the commissioner to use the Shellfish Fund for the state shellfish program. Under the program, DoAg may purchase cultch (shell or other material upon which young oysters can fasten), management supplies, material, and spawn oyster stock.

OLR Tracking: JLK: RP: PF: ts