Substitute House Bill No. 5876

Public Act No. 99-93

An Act Concerning Aquaculture Licensing and Regulation.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (a) The Department of Agriculture shall have exclusive authority for granting or denying aquaculture permits, except for matters specifically concerning water discharges from such aquaculture operations into the waters of the state, which shall require approval by the Department of Environmental Protection as provided in section 22a-430 of the general statutes. The department shall not consider discharges from aquaculture operations to be industrial discharges and shall treat and administer applications and permits from aquaculture operations as separate and distinct from permits for industrial discharges for the purposes of section 22a-430 of the general statutes. Within ninety days of receipt of a sufficient application for a discharge permit for an aquaculture operation under section 22a-430 of the general statutes, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, or a designee, shall meet with the applicant and the Commissioner of Agriculture, or a designee, to discuss such application.

(b) Aquaculture operations that withdraw less than two hundred fifty thousand gallons per day of water, where such water is not approved for human consumption, and where water so withdrawn is returned to the same source from which it was withdrawn, shall be deemed not to be a diversion as defined in section 22a-367 of the general statutes and shall be exempt from the water diversion permitting requirements of chapter 446i of the general statutes.

(c) Individual structures used for aquaculture as defined in section 22-11c of the general statutes, including, but not limited to, racks, cages or bags, as well as buoys marking such structures, which do not otherwise require a permit under federal Army Corps of Engineers regulations and do not interfere with navigation in designated or customary boating or shipping lanes and channels, shall be placed in leased or designated shellfish areas and shall be exempt from the requirements of sections 22a-359 to 22a-363f, inclusive, of the general statutes.

(d) Transport of live aquaculture products from any licensed and approved aquaculture operation or hatchery within the state, and stocking of such products in the waters of the state, where such aquaculture products are species which are indigenous to the state and are approved for stocking by the Department of Agriculture, shall be exempt from the requirements of section 26-57 of the general statutes, except that any person engaging in such transport and stocking shall obtain a renewable annual transport permit which shall govern all shipments for a calendar year designated under such permit. Such permit shall be developed and administered by the Department of Environmental Protection. Aquaculture hatcheries maintained by the Department of Environmental Protection shall be exempt from the provisions of this subsection.

(e) All shellfish aquaculture operations that utilize state approved microalgal cultured feeds or which do not use any processed cultured feed, and all crustacean and molluscan bivalve growing, hatchery and holding facilities, including, but not limited to, lobster pounds, which are not exempt from requirements to obtain a discharge permit under section 22a-430 of the general statutes or corresponding federal regulations, may operate under a general permit developed by the Department of Environmental Protection and shall not be required to obtain individual discharge permits under section 22a-430 of the general statutes. On or before September 15, 1999, said Department of Environmental Protection shall adopt and implement such general permit.

Sec. 2. Section 26-149 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

No person shall operate a commercial hatchery to hold, hatch or rear finfish or crustaceans, including, but not limited to, lobsters and blue crabs, in this state unless such person has obtained a commercial hatchery license from the Commissioner of [Environmental Protection] Agriculture in accordance with the provisions of section 1 of this act. The commissioner may issue such license to qualified applicants upon the submission of an application, on forms provided by the commissioner, containing such information as prescribed by the commissioner. There shall be an annual fee of sixty-five dollars for each such license. Such license shall expire on the last day of December next after the issuance thereof. All legally acquired finfish and crustaceans hatched, reared or held in commercial hatcheries may be taken and sold at any time for the purpose of stocking other waters, for bait or for food, except that lobsters or blue crabs sold for any purpose other than for rearing in another commercial hatchery shall not have ova or spawn attached and must meet the minimum legal length requirements provided in subsection (a) of section 26-157a. Each owner or operator of any such hatchery shall keep such records as are required by the commissioner on forms provided by the commissioner which record shall be open to inspection by said commissioner or [his] the commissioner's authorized agents at any time and a copy of such records shall be furnished to the commissioner by January thirty-first of the year following the year covered by the report. Representatives of the commissioner may enter upon the premises of any such licensed hatchery at any time to inspect any facility, equipment, impoundment or any finfish or crustaceans to determine the presence of disease or parasites. In such case said commissioner, [is authorized,] when so requested, [to] may render such technical assistance as [he determines] is necessary and possible [,] and [he] may charge a reasonable fee for such services. In the event that the presence of disease or parasites is confirmed in finfish or crustaceans hatched, held or reared in such licensed hatchery said commissioner is authorized to suspend or revoke any such commercial hatchery license and issue an order prohibiting the sale, exchange or removal from such premises of such finfish or crustaceans, and direct such disposition of such remaining finfish or crustaceans including the eggs of such finfish or crustaceans as [he] the commissioner determines would be in the public interest. Any person issued a license to operate a commercial finfish hatchery may charge a fee for the privilege of fishing in the waters included under said license and may sell any species of finfish removed therefrom, provided no sport fishing license shall be required. Said commissioner may [make] adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, governing and prescribing the methods of taking such finfish and the conditions under which such finfish may be sold, removed from the premises, possessed and transported. Said commissioner may adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, governing and prescribing the method of taking particular species of finfish and the conditions under which such finfish may be removed from the premises, possessed and transported, without a sport fishing license, from artificial facilities at fairs, sportsmen's shows and at such other place as said commissioner authorizes. Persons operating such facilities shall not be required to pay a fee to said commissioner and such persons may charge a fee for the privilege of fishing in such water, provided any such facility and any finfish used in connection therewith may be inspected at any time by any representative of the department to determine the presence of disease or parasites. In the event the presence of disease or parasites is confirmed any such representative may issue a written order directing that such facility be immediately closed to the public and directing such disposition of such remaining finfish as would be in the public interest. Any person who violates any provision of this section or any regulation adopted or order issued by the commissioner, or such representative, or any person who, without proper authorization, takes or attempts to take any finfish or crustacean from any waters described herein shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars or be imprisoned for not more than thirty days or both.

Sec. 3. Section 22-11c of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) As used in sections 22-11d to 22-11f, inclusive, "aquaculture" means the controlled rearing, cultivation and harvest of aquatic plants and animals in land-based and marine-based culture systems, tanks, containers, impoundments, floating or submerged nets or pens and ponds.

(b) For purposes of this chapter "agriculture", as defined in subsection (q) of section 1-1, shall include aquaculture.

Sec. 4. Section 22-11g of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

No person may release water, plants, animals or other material from any land-based or marine-based aquaculture systems, including, but not limited to, tanks, containers, impoundments or ponds, unless such person first provides notice to the Commissioner of Agriculture, on a form prescribed by said commissioner, regarding the nature of the substances to be released. The commissioner may issue an order to discontinue or abate such release if [he] the commissioner finds that such release poses a significant threat to the aquacultural resources of the state. This section shall not apply to any aquacultural systems operated by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Sec. 5. (NEW) When used to control starfish populations on shellfish beds, the Department of Environmental Protection shall not deem lime to be a pesticide as defined and regulated under chapter 441 of the general statutes, and such lime shall be exempt from regulation under said chapter.

Sec. 6. This act shall take effect from its passage, except that sections 2 to 4, inclusive, shall take effect October 1, 1999.

Approved June 3, 1999

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