Commercial Net Pen Options for Local Governments

The Shoreline Management Act and SMP Guidelines require cities and counties to have shoreline master programs that plan for and foster all appropriate water-dependent uses such as net pens. As part of developing new or comprehensively updating existing shoreline programs, local governments must determine if net pens are an anticipated use. If they are, local governments must:

  • Complete a science-based analysis that identifies where commercial net pens should be prohibited – due to environmental reasons or unavoidable use conflicts –  and where they should be allowed.
  • Establish requirements that identify if shoreline permits are required for new pens, and any relevant application, mitigation or monitoring requirements.

Ecology may approve a local shoreline program that specifically limits or prohibits commercial net pens when information and justification supporting such measures has been provided in SMP background documents.

Shoreline permits

Shoreline permits give local governments the ability to confirm the applicant has all the proper state and federal permits for their net pen and to review:

  • Specific site conditions
  • Current and locally applicable science
  • Presence of critical saltwater habitats and priority species (eelgrass and kelp beds, forage fish spawning habitat, migrating salmon, etc.)
  • Potential use conflicts
  • Cumulative impacts

Most net pens proposals require a substantial development permit (SDP). Our current advice to local governments is to require a conditional use permit (CUP) for commercial net pens regardless of whether a SDP is required – because CUPs provide both local and state entities an opportunity to review proposals on a case by case basis using the most current and best information.

For more information

Visit the Shoreline Master Program Handbook: Aquaculture Guidance for local governments or contact our staff


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