Date of Award



© 2022 Rebekah Woodburn

Document Type


Degree Name

Professional Science Master's (PSM) In Ocean Food Systems


Marine Science

First Advisor

Barry Antonio Costa-Pierce

Second Advisor

Adriane Michaelis

Third Advisor

Zachary Miller-Hope


Shellfish aquaculture is a growing industry in the United States that supports many individuals and communities. An important step in establishing or growing a shellfish aquaculture operation is obtaining a lease in which to cultivate shellfish. While many states allow aquaculturists to find their own lease location, the often time-intensive and expensive process to have the lease approved and permitted can be a great barrier for new entrants to the industry. Zoned leasing is a way for state agencies to establish large areas and pre-approve them for shellfish aquaculture, then divide the areas into smaller parcels of leases to be acquired by aquaculturists. This theoretically lowers the barrier to entry that can arise for shellfish aquaculture leasing. This project utilized semi-structured interviews with shellfish aquaculturists in Florida, the first state to implement a zoned leasing system and the state with the greatest utilization of the system, and surveys of state experts in each marine coastal state in the United States to investigate the impact of zoned leasing on individual businesses and provide a broad synopsis of zoned leasing utilization across the United States. Combining these different but related approaches led to the conclusion that zoned leasing can be a system that supports new entrants and industry growth if additional factors are considered as well. These factors include establishing zones in locations with beneficial physical and environmental characteristics for the expected type of shellfish aquaculture, a system to allow space for new entrants and not have leases be monopolized by existing growers, and the potential for increased development of on-land infrastructure and seed supply to support the growing industry.


Professional Science Masters Thesis

Advisor Miller-Hope is a UNE faculty member; advisor Costa-Pierce is a former UNE faculty member and now works for Ecological Aquaculture Foundation; advisor Michaelis works for ECS / NOAA Fisheries.

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