Raising aquatic animals for the purpose of human consumption has been practiced for many centuries. Ancient Chinese records indicate that the common carp was raised more than 4,000 years ago. The hieroglyphics in the tombs of the Pharaohs describe tilapia farming in ancient Egypt, while the Romans built small ponds for raising fish and oysters. Although the practice of aquaculture has a long history, until recently there was no reason for intensive development of fish farming techniques. At one point there was an abundant supply of fishes and shellfishes from natural sources. However, world population growth and increasing per capita consumption of fishes and shellfishes have resulted in over-exploitation of some species, stimulating the further development of the industry. Read the full overview

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture Act, S.3138
Animal Health Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. § 8301- 8321
Coastal Zone Management Act, 1990 and 1996 Amendments, 16 U.S.C. § 1451- 1466
Columbia River Basin Fishery Development Program, 16 U.S.C. § 835- 835m
Commercial Fisheries Research and Development Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 742(c), 779
Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544
Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251- 1388
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. § 661-668ee
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 301-399
Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 4101-07
Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 41-48
Lacey Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C §3371-3378
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1801- 1891d
Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1361-1423h
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 16 U.S.C. §§ 1431-1445c-1
National Aquaculture Act of 1980, 16 U.S.C. §§ 2801-2810
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370m
Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, 16 U.S.C. § 4701-4751
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1456-1466


Coastal Zone Management Act Regulations, 15 C.F.R. §§ 923.1-923.135
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Regulations, 21 C.F.R. Parts 1-99
Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Regulations, 40 C.F.R. Parts 150-180
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act) Regulations, 40 C.F.R. Parts 104-424
Lacey Act Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 13.48-14.225
Endangered Species Act Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 17.1-17.108
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 18.1-18.129
National Marine Fisheries Service (Shellfish) Regulations, 50 C.F.R. Part 260.1-260.104
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Regulations, 50 C.F.R. Part 300
Animals and Animal Products Regulations, C.F.R., Title 9 (2019)

   Case Law

Case Law Index for Aquaculture

   Center Research Publications

The State of Organic Aquaculture in the United States (Nichols, June 2019)

State-Specific Direct Marketing Business Guides (National AgLaw Center & U. IL @Urbana)

Animal Welfare Standards and Commercial Aquaculture Operations (Otts, 2015)

Aquaculture and the Lacey Act – Research Article (Springsteen, 2010)

State-Level Catfish Labeling Laws (Springsteen, 2009)

   Congressional Research Service Reports

CRS Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Disaster Impact and Assistance
Food Safety

   Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Aquaculture:

Environmental Issues
Finance and Credit
International Trade
Sustainable and Organic Farming

   Reference Resources

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Aquaculture National Program

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Aquaculture Information
Aquaculture Disease Information
State and Territory Import Regulations for Aquaculture
North Central Regional Aquaculture Center
Aquaculture Law in the North Central States (May 1992)
Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture
Western Regional Aquaculture Center
Southern Regional Aquaculture Center
Northeastern Regional Aquaculture Center

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Briefing Room: Aquaculture
Publication: Aquaculture Data (2008)
Publication: Aquaculture Outlook (1995-2006)
Publication: Country of Origin Labeling: Theory and Observation

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Aquaculture Operations
Aquaponics Business Plan User’s Guide
Aquaponic Development Planning -Land Revitalization
Compliance Guide for the Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production Point Source Category
Class V Fact Sheet: Aquaculture Waste Disposal Wells
Agriculture: Laws and Regulations that Apply to Your Agricultural Operation by Farm Activity
NPDES Aquaculture Permitting
Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production Effluent Guidelines
Biological Water Quality Criteria
EPA Guidance for Class V Well Owners, Operators, and Regulatory Agencies

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Aquaculture: Business Planning
Aquaculture: Federal Government Agencies
Aquaculture Data, Statistics, and Research Organizations
Organic Aquaculture

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Aquaculture Program
Aquaculture Library
10 Year Plan for Marine Aquaculture
Office of Aquaculture Priorities

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Results from the 2015 Census of  Aquaculture
Economic Analysis of Aquaculture
Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research

United States Department of Food & Drug Administration

Drug Use in Aquaculture Enforcement
Classification of Aquaculture Species

International Resources

Aquaculture (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
Aquaculture (European Commission)
Fisheries and Aquaculture Department (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview
Glossary of Aquaculture
The World Fish Center
Asian Fisheries Society
European Aquaculture Society
International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers
Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia-Pacific
World Organization for Animal Health
World Trade Organization

Agriculture Agreement
Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)

Additional Resources

Aquaculture Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)
Aquaculture Factsheet (Langston U.)
Aquaculture (WI Dept. of Ag., Trade and Consumer Protection)
Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences (Auburn U.)
Aquaculture (NC Dept of Ag. and Consumer Services)
Making Plans for Commercial Aquaculture in the North-Central Region
Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy
Marine and Environmental Law Institute
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview (NALO)
Center for Oceans Law and Policy (Univ. of Virginia)
World Aquaculture Society
National Association of State Aquaculture Coordinators
Delaware Aquaculture Resource Center  (U. DE)
Great Lakes Information Network
American Aquaculture
National Aquaculture Association
National Shellfisheries Association
Special Research Grants Program Aquaculture Research
Aquaponics-Integration of Hydroponics and Aquaculture (ATTRA)
Aquaculture Resources (SeaWeb)
United States Aquaculture Legislation Overview (FAO)
World Fish Organization


Overview of Food Fraud in the Fisheries Sector (Reilly, 2018, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

Stewart, A Current Affair: Ensuring Sustainable Aquaculture in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, 20 Vermont J. ENVTL. L. 70-94 (2019)

The Big “Blue” Nation: Expanding Aquaculture in Kentucky, 10 KY. J. EQUINEM AGRI., AND NAT. RESOURCES L. 89-109 (2017-2018)

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

The Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership Program (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Guide to Drug, Vaccine, and Pesticide Use in Aquaculture (Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture, 4/07)

National Marine Fisheries Service: Improvements Are Needed in the Federal Process Used to Protect Marine Mammals from Commercial Fishing (GAO-09-78, 12/08)

Offshore Marine Aquaculture: Multiple Administrative and Environmental Issues Need to Be Addressed in Establishing a U.S. Regulatory Framework (GAO-08-594, 5/08)

Potential to Operate Greenhouses and Aquaculture in Conjunction with Iowa’s Ethanol Plants (Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag., 2008)

Business Planning for Aquaculture: Is It Feasible? (NE Regional Aquaculture Center)

Fish Farm Business Plan Workbook

State of World Aquaculture (FAO, 2006)

Sustainable Marine Aquaculture: Fulfilling the Promise, Managing the Risks (Marine Aquaculture Task Force)

Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): Legal and Regulatory Concerns (Reiser and Bunsick)

Marine Aquaculture in the United States: Current and Future Policy and Management Challenges (DeVoe)

Planning and Management for Sustainable Coastal Aquaculture Development (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection)

The Legal & Regulatory Environment: Offshore Aquaculture Permitting Process in the Gulf of Mexico (Fletcher et al.)

Publications of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (Sources, Fate, and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment: A Global Assessment and Opportunistic Settlers and the Problem of the Ctenophore Mnemiopsis Leidyi Invasion in the Black Sea. GESAMP Reports and Studies No. 58)

Can We Feed the World With Farmed Fish? (Bland, 2017)

Marine Aquaculture: Opportunities for Growth (Committee on Assessment of Technology and Opportunities for Marine Aquaculture in the United States, 1992

Economics of Aquaculture Policy and Regulation (Annual Review of Resource Economics, 2019)