Industry Perspective

Being a Good Aquaculture Lease Applicant

Tips on getting through the lease hearing process from a veteran oyster farm owner.


Bill Mook, business owner


Mook Sea Farm


Some lease application tips

Being a good lease aquaculture applicant is key for getting your business off the ground. Here are some tips about the leasing process that could help. The leasing process is slow, requires a substantial investment of time (and sometimes cash), and is often torturous. It is important to go into the process with a clear idea of the amount and type of acreage needed to achieve your business goals. You should gather as much information about existing and prior use of your proposed lease site, and the surrounding area, as possible prior to the application process. During the pre-application meeting and scoping session look to identify potential opponents to the project and try to understand the basis of their opposition. Get their contact information, offer to meet with them, and if there is any demonstrable receptivity, take the initiative to set up a time and talk.

Where you should focus

Focus on the legal criteria that must be met in order for the state to grant your lease. Try to identify/gauge concerns that are truly related to the statutory leasing criteria. Whether or not the concerns are legitimate you should investigate thoroughly—especially navigation and fishing. If the concerns are baseless, find people who will so testify. To be effective, they must be willing to attend the hearing and testify under oath. If the lease can be configured to mitigate actual or perceived leasing criteria issues, it could decrease the amount of opposition during the lease hearing. Focusing on the legal criteria when preparing your lease application will help by mitigating any actual legal criteria issues and as many perceived issues as possible.

You won’t change everyone’s mind

Understand that very often people oppose a lease because they simply don’t want things to change. Some opponents, particularly riparian owners, will not be appeased because they are driven by a sense of entitlement to their view. They may even state this is because they pay higher taxes for waterfront property. Or, they may say that your farm will lower their property value. Therefore, unless they initiate a campaign against your project, don’t invest your time in trying to persuade them. I am often tempted to ask (but never do): How many livelihoods denied is their view worth? Instead, in your testimony, make sure to state the number of jobs created by the lease. It is not a legal consideration, but it makes an important point.

Be flexible

Reconfigure the lease so that it mitigates opposition without substantially impacting operation of the farm, even if you feel your activity will not “unreasonably” interfere with the claimed use/activity. This can be done even during the hearing, although depending on the modification, it may necessitate another hearing.

Case studies are authored by industry members at the request of The Maine Aquaculturist. Authors are selected based on experience and expertise in a key business aspect of aquaculture. See our About page for more information.

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