Start Here: Aquaculture in Michigan, An Overview

The State of Michigan and the aquaculture industry are working together to grow Michigan’s current industry into a major part of Michigan’s agriculture sector. Currently, Michigan’s aquaculture industry is comprised of farms raising fish for use as bait, stocking ponds, fee fishing, with a small number growing fish for food production. Our state is well positioned to expand the food production aquaculture sector, with our ample water supply, numerous location opportunities, good financing options, and close proximity to the population centers of the US and Canada.

Getting Started in Aquaculture

In 2011, the Aquaculture Industry and Michigan Quality of Life (QOL) departments (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources) created a road map to help aquaculture operators understand the regulatory process. The document in the link below was designed with decision trees to help them navigate regulations which may impact their particular type of aquaculture operation.

The three QOL departments are committed to helping you with your project and will conduct meetings with new and expanding operations as they move through the regulatory process. The QOL departments, along with industry groups, meet regularly to get updates about the industry and streamline regulatory processes.

The State of Michigan wants to help you

If you are new to the industry or looking to expand, contact our MDARD Economic Development Specialist (517-243-8046) early in the process so we can assist you with:

  • a business plan,
  • financing options
  • regulatory assistance
  • locating a facility
  • supply chain connections with aquaculture equipment and supplies.

Permit Information

The Aquaculture in Michigan AIM Roadmap Through Regulations is a valuable first resource to explore. The Roadmap includes a set of Decision Trees to guide you through business and regulatory considerations, including more details on each requirement. Decision Tree #7 on page 22 of the Roadmap includes permit approval timelines – an important consideration to ensure farm operations comply.

Contacting the departments to requesting a pre-meeting before pursuing the permits is recommended – this will help to clarify specific application requirements in support of your business and clarify timing of various permits. Please feel free to contact the Aquaculture Program Manager at 517-284-5669 to help you with setting up a pre-meeting.

Current Aquaculture Facilities in Michigan

This link will provide you a current listing of all the current licensed facilities in the State of Michigan. Licensed Aquaculture Facilities in Michigan.

Aquaculture Resources- Depending on the system, the below permits may or may not apply to your operation

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Permits

Aquaculture Facility Licensing Details & FAQ

Aquaculture Research Permit: Contact MDARD at 517-284-5669 or 517-243-8045 for help in creating a research document for the species desired

Aquaculture- movement, importing, or exporting

List of Approved Species for Aquaculture Production in Michigan

Dealer/Trucker Permit


Michigan Department of Natural Resource Permits

Private Stocking/Public Waters:

Salmonid Importation: Contact Gary Whelan at (517) 284-5840

Wholesale Minnow Dealer License


Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Permits

NPDES Discharge

Groundwater Discharge

Water Withdrawal

Wetland, Inland Lakes & Streams

Soil Erosion and Construction Storm Water


Financial Assistance


Fish Health Information

Reportable Animal Disease List

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fish Disease Overview

Focus on Fish Health - Information on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) from the Center for Food Security and Public Health.

USDA Aquaculture Health Website - This is part of the APHIS Veterinary Services. For up-to-date information on aquaculture health related issues.

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Brochure from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

MSU Aquatic Animal Health Lab


Laws and Regulations

The laws relative to Aquaculture are (follow the links):

Act 199, PA of 1996, Michigan Aquaculture Development. An act to define, develop, and regulate aquaculture as an agricultural enterprise in this state.

Act 451, PA of 1994,Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act Part 459 Propagation of Game Fish in Private Waters. An act to protect the environment and natural resources of the state.

Act 466, PA of 1988, Animal Industry Act An act to authorize and require the appointment of a state veterinarian within the department of agriculture; to protect the human food chain and the livestock and aquaculture industries of the state through prevention, control, and eradication of infectious, contagious, or toxicological diseases of livestock and other animals.

Additional Materials

Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPS) This link provides access to the GAAMPS: Care of Farm Animals, which includes current accepted husbandry practices for aquaculture farming.

MDARD Marketing Guide This link provides access to the MDARD Marketing Guide which can help assist aquaculture businesses in marketing their product, locating grants, and creating business plans.

Bodies of Dead Animals Rules

The rules provide for composting of dead animals and animal tissue within a structure, in open piles, windrows, and contained vessels.  These additional alternatives for disposal of dead animals will assist producers who have no rendering services, licensed landfills that accept dead animals, or soil types for proper burial.

Michigan Aquaculture Association

Michigan Sea Grant