Shellfish, aquatic invertebrate, and seaweed health and cultivation permitting information

Shellfish Import and Transfer permitting requirements are intended to reduce risk associated with introducing and spreading shellfish disease agents and harmful aquatic pest organisms. As specified in WACs 220-340-050 and 220-340-150 , it is unlawful to import from out of state or transfer shellfish within Washington State without first obtaining a Washington state Shellfish Import or Shellfish Transfer Permit. Once a person submits a complete shellfish import or shellfish transfer permit application, unless further information is required from the applicant, the department will submit transfer and import permit applications to a required 20 working day tribal review, prior to being issued. "Shellfish" are defined as all non-insect aquatic invertebrates. 

The importation of kelp and other marine plants also requires an Import Permit. There are some restrictions on the transfer of marine plants within the state (see below). 

Cultivation of aquatic products: The cultivation of any aquatic products, including shellfish and seaweed, requires an Aquatic Farm Registration. Registration information can be found via WDFW Licensing. Aquatic Farmers must also maintain and report farm production records to WDFW Licensing. Production reports must contain the information described here and more information can be found in WAC Chapter 220-370

Commercial harvest of intertidal wildstock clams and oysters from non-state lands requires an Emerging Commercial Fisheries License and Trial Commercial Fishery Permit. Information can be found in WAC 220-360-100 through 220-360-140. Also see "More information" tab below for information on Treaty rights obligations related to harvest of wildstock clams and oysters from non-state lands. 

Don't relocate shellfish or shell in Washington waters without a permit. Doing so could accidentally introduce or spread disease or pest organisms. The placement of shell or shellfish into contact with state waters requires a permit from WDFW.

Who needs a shellfish import permit: Anyone seeking to import or possess live aquatic invertebrates from outside the state of Washington into the state. This includes but is not limited to aquatic invertebrates (other than insects) intended for aquaculture, research, public or personal display, or education. This excludes shellfish considered market-ready, intended for immediate human consumption and not intended to be placed into or to come into contact with state waters. Note that there are restrictions on importing certain species and from certain source locations. 

Who needs a shellfish transfer permit: Anyone wishing to transfer shellfish, shellfish aquaculture products (such as seed, cultch, and shell), aquaculture equipment (such as vessels and vehicles) or any marine organisms adversely affecting shellfish, into or contacting state waters. This includes but is not limited to shellfish aquaculture activities like broodstock movement, wet storage, placement of cultch, placement or sale of shellfish seed; and transfer of invertebrates for research, education, monitoring, or display. This excludes shellfish that are market ready, intended for immediate human consumption, and which will not be placed into or come into contact with state waters. 

Who needs a marine plant import permit: Anyone seeking to import live kelp, seaweed, or other marine plant aquaculture products destined for contact with state waters (directly or indirectly). 

Marine plant transfer: It is unlawful to transfer marine plant aquaculture products between any of the following geographic areas without having first obtained a transfer permit: Columbia River; Pacific Ocean waters; Willapa Harbor; Grays Harbor; Puget Sound. No transfer permit is necessary for transfer within any of the geographic regions described above. 

Application information

Applications for shellfish import and transfer permits can be found on this page. Applications are available as a Word Document (.doc) and as a PDF. Both of these formats can be filled in using a computer, saved, and e-mailed to the contacts listed below. Documents filled out electronically and sent via e-mail are preferred, but the PDF can also be printed and filled in by hand if need be. If for any reason you have trouble opening either of these forms, please contact us for assistance.

To submit a shellfish transfer or import application or for further information please contact:

Shellfish permits
shellfishpermits@dfw.wa.gov

Chris Eardley
chris.eardley@dfw.wa.gov

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
375 Hudson Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368
Fax: 360-302-3031

The Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) has in-depth information about most environmental permits in their Regulatory Handbook. WDFW permit processing and issuing times can be found in the handbook and are also posted to ORIA's Permit Timeliness Data repository.

Shellfish import permits

Import permits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are required for the import of live shellfish from waters or facilities outside the State of Washington. This includes, but is not limited to, shellfish for aquaculture, research or display purposes.  Shellfish which are market ready and do not come into contact with state waters do not require a permit. Some organisms or imports from certain source locations may be eligible for import into WDFW-approved quarantine only. Applications for import into quarantine facilities must be accompanied by a facility biosecurity plan, photo documentation of the facility, research plan (if research-related), and a facility site plan (unless these documents are already on file with WDFW). 

Import permits will include conditions to ensure that diseases, pests and invasive species do not enter the State’s waters. Permits may be modified or revoked upon a finding of an aquatic disease or pest or upon determination of violation of the conditions of a permit. (RCW 77.15.350)

Application forms and reference materials

2022 WDFW-approved out of state shellfish providers for aquaculture

Up to date as of: 08/29/22

Company Facility name Facility location Approved species and life stage Approval expires Permitting type
Hawaiian Shellfish Kea'au Hatchery Kea'au, HI PO: seed and larvae  09/29/22 (PO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Hog Island Oyster Co.  Humboldt nursery Humboldt Bay, CA PO: seed 08/10/23 (PO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Jamestown Point Whitney Ventures Kailua-Kona Hatchery Kailua-Kona, HI PO: seed and larvae; KO: seed and larvae 09/29/22 (PO, KO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Molluscan Broodstock Program (MBP) Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center MBP hatchery Yaquina Bay, OR PO: seed 05/03/22 (PO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC) University of Hawaii PACRC hatchery Hilo, HI PO: larvae and seed 08/24/22 (PO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA
Island Scallops  Closed hatchery facility Qualicum Beach, BC GE: seed Requires dedicated permit application Requires dedicated permit application
Taylor Shellfish/Mariculture Humboldt Nursery Humboldt Bay, CA PO: seed; KO: seed; MC: seed 09/13/22 (PO, KO, MC) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Taylor Shellfish Kailua-Kona Hatchery Kailua-Kona, HI PO: seed; MC: seed; EO: seed 02/14/23 (PO, MC, EO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Pacific Hybreed, Inc. Kailua-Kona Hatchery Kailua-Kona, HI PO: larvae and seed 03/29/23 (PO) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit
Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery Netarts Bay, OR KO: larvae; PO: larvae; MC: larvae 07/26/22 (KO); 01/22/23 (PO, MC) General permit authorizing shipping to WA, receivers must receive copy of import permit

PO=Pacific oyster (Magallana gigas); MC=Manila clam (Venerupis philippinarum); KO=Kumamoto oyster (Crassostrea sikamea); GE=geoduck (Panopea generosa); MM=Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis); EO=Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica)

This list is intended to advise potential shellfish seed and larvae buyers for aquaculture use in Washington waters. The facilities listed above are considered currently approved by WDFW to ship live shellfish seed or larvae to Washington for aquaculture purposes, having met all of WDFW's import requirements as of the date the table was last updated. An absence of a facility from this list indicates that the facility has not met, or has not yet met (approval could be in process) all of the requirements for the current year; this list only includes seed and larvae imports. It is unlawful to import live shellfish for aquaculture purposes from facilities that have not met WDFW requirements and thus do not have a current import permit. Aquaculture includes commercial and non-commercial uses (such as shellfish gardening). It is possible that this list is not current from time to time; it is recommended that potential shellfish import applicants contact WDFW for information.

Shellfish transfer permits

Transfer permits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are required for the  transfer of shellfish, shellfish aquaculture products (including oyster seed, cultch and shell), aquaculture equipment (including aquaculture vehicles and vessels) or any marine organisms adversely affecting shellfish.  Shellfish Transfer Permits include conditions that eliminate or reduce the risk of transferring marine pests, such as oyster drills and European green crabs, from one body of water to another.  Certain areas are identified as oyster drill areas (WAC 220-340-130 and 220-340-140). Transfer permit conditions document transfer vehicles, cleaning and disposal methods, inspection needs, and other preventative measures.

Application forms and reference materials

Shellfish transfer permit application form:  PDF | MS Word

Click "More information" below for information on European green crabs, Japanese oyster drills, and more. 

Marine plants (Seaweed)

The importation and transfer of kelp and other marine plants is regulated under:

The importation of kelp, other seaweeds, and any other marine plants requires an Import Permit.  For the import of marine plants, please complete and submit a Shellfish Import Permit application. Note that there are currently no out of state seaweed/kelp hatcheries approved for import of seaweed for aquaculture purposes into Washington. 

There are some restrictions on the transfer of marine plants within the state. It is unlawful to transfer marine plant aquaculture products between any of the following geographic areas without having first obtained a transfer permit: Columbia River; Pacific Ocean waters; Willapa Harbor; Grays Harbor; Puget Sound. No transfer permit is necessary for transfer within any of the geographic regions described above.  If a permit is required for the transfer of marine plants, please complete and submit a Shellfish Transfer Permit application. 

Quarantine facilities

Some organisms or imports from certain source locations may be eligible for import into WDFW-approved quarantine only. WDFW approves two types of quarantine: isolation quarantine, and terminal quarantine. Organisms imported into isolation quarantine may in some cases be eligible for upgrade and removal from quarantine. Organisms placed into terminal quarantine must remain in quarantine permanently. The type of quarantine required may depend on the organism, the source location, the intended use, and the specific risk being managed. Most quarantine situations are considered terminal quarantine. Examples of sectors utilizing quarantine include research, display (including aquariums and educational facilities), and aquaculture. 

Applications for import into quarantine facilities must be accompanied by a facility biosecurity plan, photo documentation of the facility, research plan (if research-related), and a facility site plan (unless these documents are already on file with WDFW). All quarantine facilities must be approved by WDFW and come with an inspection requirement. 

WDFW's biosecurity principles are to ensure that organisms and systems requiring quarantine are completely isolated from other, non-quarantine organisms and systems and critically, from state waters. The following is a partial list of items WDFW expects to be established and maintained for approvable quarantine facilities; specific requirements will depend on the facility, the organisms being held, the location, and the intended use of quarantine:

  • Facility must be secure, with access limited to trained and authorized personnel (e.g. locked doors, clear and durable signage, training requirements);
  • Facility must be equipped to prevent contamination (including facility water) from entering or exiting (e.g. foot baths, sealed drains, sealed floor-wall junctions, berms, treatment of effluent, cleaning protocols);
  • Facility must have its own dedicated tools, equipment, and cleaning supplies which will not be used in other, non-quarantine facilities;
  • Facility must have contingency plans in place in case of spill or loss of power (e.g. berms or other secondary containment, sealed drains and floor-wall junctions, cleaning protocols, back-up power, location away from state waters, emergency contact);
  • Organism, packaging, and water disposal requirements;
  • Staff, intern, and/or volunteer education/training;
  • Reporting requirements

For more information, contact WDFW.

Temporary wet storage of shellfish

WDFW must permit the transfer or import of live shellfish into wet storage--including for on-beach, in-water (e.g. sink float), and upland or dockside tank/cage/barrel facilities. The movement of live shellfish is one way in which disease-causing shellfish pathogens or pests can be introduced or spread, which is why WDFW regulations require a Shellfish Transfer Permit for movement of shellfish into or around state waters1. The movement of shellfish into wet storage sites and facilities also requires a permit, and wet storage facilities—from on-beach sites to flow-through tanks and in-water structures—all require approval and permitting from WDFW (not just the Department of Health). Among WDFW’s current concerns are the expansion of international trade of live shellfish (including the recent addition of Spain and the Netherlands to the list of approved countries), resulting in imported live seafood to our state, and the expanding range of harmful European green crab in our waters.

The operation of a wet storage site or facility without a permit and approval from WDFW is unlawful. It is also unlawful to place imported live shellfish into state waters or into wet storage facilities within or discharging to state waters without approval from WDFW. It is critical that no live imported shellfish are placed into wet storage in order to protect our waters and shellfish populations from potential diseases arriving with imported shellfish.

Contact WDFW to engage on requirements and permitting. Among the information WDFW will be interested in is the location of wet storage both geographically and in relation to state waters, whether the site/facility is connected to state waters (e.g. in-water, untreated flow-through vs. closed recirculation), what species of shellfish are to be held, and the origins of the shellfish to be held. This requirement applies to all shellfish defined in WAC 220-320-010.

Examples of wet storage and WDFW requirement
Type of wet storage Needs transfer permit? Other
Upland flow-through tanks, buckets, or similar Yes Import permit needed for any imported shellfish
On-beach storage (pallets, on-bottom, totes, baskets, etc.) Yes Import permit needed for any imported shellfish
In-water sink float Yes Import permit needed for any imported shellfish
Upland setting tanks Yes Import permit needed for any imported shellfish larvae/seed
Retail seafood market tanks Yes Import permit needed for any imported shellfish; restrictions for wet storage of imported seafood
Temporary storage of harvested crab ("tanking/hanging") Yes Import permit needed for any crab harvested outside WA waters

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I import live crawfish (crayfish) from out of state or outside the U.S. for my upcoming crawfish boil? And what about crayfish as fishing bait?

No, you may not import live crayfish for consumption (such as for a crawfish boil), for use as fishing bait, or for any other purposes. Doing so would be illegalCrayfish from outside of Washington pose an invasive species and potential disease introduction concern. The Department classifies all crayfish in the family Cambaridae and all but a few in the family Parastacidae as Prohibited level 3 species (WAC 220-640-050) as species that pose a moderate to high invasive risk (RCW 77.135.030). This includes species most likely to be available on the market--such as red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), white river crayfish (Procambarus zonangulus), rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), and others; these crayfish may be farmed or wild-caught and are not native to Washington. It is unlawful to introduce into the state or possess a Prohibited Level 1, 2, or 3 species, except that the department may authorize some possession of such species for certain scientific research or display uses via permit (WAC 220-640-100); WDFW will not permit the import of live crayfish species classified as Prohibited for crawfish boils. They may, however, be purchased and possessed in non-live (dead) forms for human or animal consumption--such as fully cooked, frozen, canned, preserved, and raw/fresh with head and/or internal organs removed. There are other requirements as well, described in WAC 220-340-051.

Pacificastacus leniusculus, one of Washington's native crayfish, may be available on the market and is not listed as a Prohibited species. It may be imported from out of state specifically for human consumption purposes, but may not be placed into state waters (including temporarily to keep the crawfish alive/fresh) without a permit; placing imported animals into state waters can spread harmful diseases, parasites, or other pests. Using live crayfish as fishing bait is also of concern (see below).

Bait: Using imported or non-native crayfish (either those imported from out of state or those collected from within Washington waters, as we do have some non-native species established here) for bait (dead or alive) is also unlawful. For more information on crayfish identification and harvest information, click here

Conferring with the Department on imports or transfers of live shellfish of any kind, for any purposes, is strongly recommended. 

Can I import live shellfish (e.g. clams, mussels, lobsters, etc.) into Washington as a seafood market product?

You may import "market ready" shellfish into Washington without a shellfish import or transfer permit from WDFW, unless the species is listed as a Prohibited species by WDFW (e.g. see above regarding crayfish; WAC 220-640). "Market ready shellfish" are defined as aquatic invertebrate species which are intended for immediate human consumption and will not be placed into or come in contact with state waters. Under no circumstances may market-ready shellfish come into direct or indirect (such as being placed into flow-through or in-water wet storage, for example) contact with state waters without a permit from WDFW. Moving shellfish around is generally a concern for introducing or spreading harmful hitch-hiking organisms  and market-ready shellfish may come into our state from around the world, carrying unknown risks to our marine environment and local shellfish. WDFW does have licensing requirements for fish dealers and buyers--please refer too our Licensing page. When in doubt, reach out to WDFW for more information. Beyond WDFW, the Washington Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health both have roles in regulating trade in market-ready seafood products in our state. WDFW recommends contacting these entities if you wish to sell shellfish market-ready products in Washington.

Do I need a permit from WDFW for temporary wet storage of shellfish? 

Yes, WDFW must permit the transfer or import of live shellfish into wet storage--including for on-beach, in-water (e.g. sink float), and upland or dockside tank/cage/barrel facilities. The movement of live shellfish is one way in which disease-causing shellfish pathogens or pests can be introduced or spread around, which is why WDFW regulations require a Shellfish Transfer Permit for movement of shellfish into or around state waters1. The movement of shellfish into wet storage sites and facilities also requires a permit, and wet storage facilities—from on-beach sites to flow-through tanks and in-water sink floats—all require approval and permitting from WDFW (not just the Department of Health). Among WDFW’s current concerns are the expansion of international trade of live shellfish (including the recent addition of Spain and the Netherlands to the list of approved countries), resulting in imported live seafood to our state, and the expanding range of harmful European green crab in our waters.

The operation of a wet storage site or facility without a permit and approval from WDFW is unlawful. It is also unlawful to place imported live shellfish into state waters or into wet storage facilities within or discharging to state waters without approval from WDFW. It is critical that no live imported shellfish are placed into wet storage in order to protect our waters and shellfish populations from potential diseases arriving with imported shellfish.

Do I need a permit for religious (such as Buddhist) or traditional "life release" or "live release" ceremonies?

Yes, a shellfish transfer permit is needed to place any live aquatic invertebrates (e.g. shellfish) into state waters. There are also WDFW permitting requirements for similar actions with fish, and there are prohibitions on possession of some organisms altogether. Do not ever release live animals into state waters without approval from WDFW --this is an action that represents risk of introducing an invasive species or harmful disease-causing pathogen to our waters, and it is also against the law. It is especially critical that no imported organisms, such as fish or shellfish commonly sold live at seafood markets, be placed into state waters without approval from WDFW. This consequences could be devastating for Washington's aquatic ecosystems.  A permit is required for any proposed Buddhist life release or other religious, spiritual, traditional, or ceremonial life release or live release.

Is WDFW concerned about live imported shellfish intended for market, such as the new FDA approval of trade in live molluscan shellfish from E.U. countries?

Yes, WDFW is concerned about the risks of accidental transfer of disease-causing shellfish pathogens exotic to Washington with all live shellfish imports intended for the seafood market. While deemed safe from a human health standpoint, the importation of live molluscan shellfish represents risk for the introduction of harmful shellfish pathogens to receiving states. Of the 7 mollusc diseases prioritized as Reportable by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 4 have been documented and associated with substantial impacts in the European Union (EU). Bonamia ostreae, Perkinus olseni, and Marteilia refringens have all been confirmed in either or both Spain and the Netherlands, among other EU states; Bonamia exitiosa has been confirmed elsewhere in the EU. Two mollusc pathogens not yet listed by the OIE, Vibrio tapetis (causative agent of Brown ring disease of clams) and Ostreid herpesvirus microvariant (OSHV-1 µvar) are of critical concern to the state of Washington and have been documented in both Spain and the Netherlands. Both have been implicated in significant damage to clam and oyster industries in a growing list of regions and their introduction to Washington would be potentially disastrous. This is not an exhaustive inventory, but a few examples of pathogens that may be unintentionally transferred to receiving states with live shellfish imports without proper precautionary measures. Of critical concern is that imported shellfish, their shells, tissues, or other associated materials could end up in contact with state waters. Unpermitted wet storage, seafood discards (such as shells), "freshening" of shellfish on the beach prior to consumption, live release of animals, and ill-advised "shell recycling" projects are a few examples of ways these products can enter state waters (and all of these are unlawful without a permit from WDFW).

WDFW is working to identify solutions to reduce risks associated with imported live shellfish, including working with other agencies and industry partners. Education on the risks posed by imported shellfish contacting state waters is one strategy underway. WDFW also reminds anyone that is planning to import, transfer, or wet store live shellfish that a permit is required for this activity. It is unlawful to place imported live shellfish (or shell, tissue, or other associated material) into state waters or into wet storage facilities without approval from WDFW. It is critical that no live imported shellfish are placed into wet storage in order to protect our waters and shellfish populations from potential diseases arriving with imported shellfish.

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