Commercial Shellfish Harvest

The expansive marshes and nutrient rich waters of coastal Georgia offer the entrepreneur a lucrative career in the commercial cultivation and harvest of shellfish. Currently, hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) and the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) are the only species cultivated and harvested in nineteen (19) commercial harvest areas. We encourage the serious entrepreneur with innovative ideas for novel shellfish farming or the development of novel fisheries for new, native species to develop a comprehensive management plan and explore the concept and feasibility with Coastal Resources Division staff.  To discuss ideas contact the Shellfish Water Quality Program at 912-264-7218.


Shellfish harvesters in Georgia are separated into two groups:  

Master Collector

The Master Collector must have a Georgia Shellfish Sanitation Certificate, Georgia Wholesale Fish Dealer License, Food Sales Establishment License, Georgia commercial fishing license, and a Georgia commercial fishing vessel license. Only Master Collectors may sell shellfish harvested in Georgia waters. The Coastal Resources Division may issue Master collector permits and leases for the exclusive right to cultivate and harvest oysters, clams, and/or other approved shellfish in specific tracts of tidal and/or sub-tidal areas in approved waters to individuals or companies. Issuance of a lease depends on the availability of permitted areas, the experience and knowledge of shellfish aquaculture demonstrated by the applicant, and the merits of the applicant’s shellfish management plan. Leases may be terminated if the Master Collector fails to maintain his on-shore storage and processing facilities, fails to adequately supervise his pickers, or fails to maintain his shellfish lease area as required by State law. 


At the written request of a Master collector, and by application to the CRD, the division may grant to any state resident a pickers permit for the right to harvest shellfish on specified leased shellfish areas. The CRD and the Georgia Department of Agriculture must approve each individual involved in the commercial harvest of shellfish.   The Shellfish Picker permit will be issued only to individuals working for a Master Collector. Pickers are restricted to harvest shellfish from areas leased by the Master Collector. Pickers are required to watch a shellfish harvesting sanitation video at the CRD. Pickers must maintain a valid Georgia commercial fishing license and, if using a personal watercraft, a valid commercial fishing vessel license. 
Master collecting permits and pickers' permits will be issued on to legal residents of the United States and shall not be issued to persons who have been convicted three times in the two years immediately preceding the filing of an application for a permit of violations of this Code section, subsection (b) of Code Section 27-4-193, subsections (a) and (b) of Code Section 27-4-195, or Code Section 27-4-199.  

Definition of Shellfish, Harvest Times and Permissible Equipment:

Shellfish are defined as clams, oysters, mussels, or any bivalve mollusk inhabiting the coastal estuaries, marshes or beaches of coastal Georgia.   Shellfish must be harvested between the hours of ½ hour before official sunrise and ½ hour after official sunset and may only be taken by hand or with handheld implements.
For assistance and other questions about the certification process and obtaining a Georgia Shellfish Sanitation Certificate contact the following Consumer Protection District Offices or the Seafood Safety Office at the following numbers:
Other Information and Links:

Georgia Department of Agriculture Consumer Safety Division

Phone Number
Toll Free Number
Jesup - Coastal Georgia, District 5
Albany, District 4
Forest Park, District 2
Thomson, District 3
Oakwood - North Georgia, District 1
Atlanta—State Office
800 282-5852