Home Fishing Tips & Advice How to Get a Shellfish License in New York

How to Get a Shellfish License in New York

Residents and nonresidents can get a shellfish license in New York from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Shellfish license is issued as per the regulations laid down for Marine Permits and Licenses. Commercial diggers must not only apply for a license, but also complete the shellfish harvester education program. Residents or nonresidents catching shellfish for recreational purposes, or personal consumption, do not have to complete the exam. They should refer to local laws in the cities, districts or towns, as there could be closures, exempted areas, and certain prerequisites or clearances necessary. 

Residency or Domicile in the State of New York

The Department of Environmental Conservation in New York has two forms for applicants, respectively for residents and nonresidents. Both have to choose their domicile status. Residents should tick the checkbox accordingly and provide their domicile certificate. Nonresidents should provide other proofs of identification. Both residents and nonresidents must provide latest photos and supporting identification proofs.

Since commercial digging and harvesting of shellfish requires boats and other vehicles, the details of these should also be provided in the application. The specific forms are available on the official website of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Residents can refer to the form here. Nonresidents can refer to the form here.

Recreational Shellfish License in New York

Unlike commercial shellfish diggers and harvesters who must have valid permits issued by the Division of Marine Resources, recreational fishers do not have to apply for any license from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Both residents and nonresidents can catch shellfish in public waters, unless there is a prohibition at a place, without any permit. However, there are limits and exemptions. Also, local authorities in a town may have certain restrictions or regulations imposed. It is necessary to check with the local laws before engaging in recreational shellfish harvesting.

All recreational and commercial shellfish harvesters must know the catch limits, the permitted areas, special and emergency closures, best practices for catching and safety for consumption. The state department has a commercial shellfish harvester education exam that you can refer to here. For recreational purposes, you could harvest soft clam, hard clam, oyster, bank mussel, blue mussel, bay scallop, sea scallop, surf clam, and ocean quahog. There are size and catch limits for these types of shellfish permitted for recreational harvesting.

You can catch a hundred hard clams of one inch thickness. The size limit for soft clam is one and a half inch, but it is length and not thickness. The catch limit for soft clam is half a bushel, or four gallons.

The largest oyster you can harvest is three inches at its longest diameter, and the size limit is half a bushel.

Blue and bank mussels don’t have a size limit as per the regulation, but the catch limits are half a bushel and one bushel respectively.

Bay scallop has a harvest season, when you can catch up to two and a quarter inch long of this shellfish variety, but each must have an annual growth ring. The catch limit is one bushel. Sea scallop and ocean quahog do not have imposed size limits. The catch limit for both is one bushel.

You can catch surf clam for personal consumption, up to a size of four inches and a maximum catch of one bushel.

These limits are per person, per day, and only where there is no local regulation further restricting the size or catch. Such recreational shellfish harvesting does not require permit or license. There is no fee to be paid. Temporary closures, special exemptions, and other no-fishing areas should be avoided. All residents and nonresidents must refer to a local agency or authority to have any queries addressed prior to recreational shellfish digging or harvesting.

Commercial Shellfish License in New York

Commercial shellfish license permit is for diggers and harvesters. There is a requisite known as shellfish digger endorsement, and a shellfish vessel endorsement. The digger or harvester permit for commercial operators, whether resident or nonresident, grants one the rights to harvest and cull, sort and tag different types of clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters. These digging or harvesting operations must be on open waters, not in enclosed spaces. The purpose should be commercial.

Commercial shellfish license in New York costs $50 for residents and $150 for nonresidents. Children aged sixteen or younger should have a parent or a legal guardian sign and notarize the application. Every commercial shellfish license is valid for one season, from the date of issue through the 31st of December, that very year.

Residents should fill up the relevant application, sign the requisite Declaration of Domicile, pass a commercial shellfish harvester education exam, and submit or send the entire package to the Marine Permit Office. Nonresidents should fill up the relevant application, pass the commercial shellfish harvester education exam and submit or send the package to the same address. Renewals are permitted when applied for a fortnight prior or earlier, leading up to the date of expiry.

Shellfish digger vessel endorsement is necessary for those using a boat. Every vessel should have a permit, and it covers all the people onboard. The vessel can engage in harvesting or digging, culling, sorting, and tagging. The operations should be restricted to hard clams and oysters. The shellfish digger vessel license and thus endorsement fee is $50 if the boat is forty feet or smaller, and $150 for vessels larger than forty feet. The validity is the same as that of commercial shellfish license for a resident or nonresident.

Depending on the type of application and nature of intended operation, additional details may be needed for both the shellfish license and vessel endorsement permit. The registration of the vessel as accorded by the state must be valid and the relevant details should be provided. An endorsed vessel may also provide its US Coast Guard Vessel Certificate of Documentation. All shellfish license and vessel permit holders are required to maintain accurate records of people onboard and the daily catches, including types, sizes and total volume, or weight. There are restrictions pertaining to type, size and catch for commercial shellfish harvesting.