Another element to consider is whether local government regulation could impact your aquaculture operation. This is especially important if your operation has a land-based element. Local governments typically have limited authority over the water and water bottom, but exercise a great deal of authority over the land within their boundaries. Some of the local ordinances that might apply are discussed below.


A local government has the authority to zone the property within its jurisdictional boundaries. A locality’s zoning ordinance will determine what uses are permitted within certain areas of the locality. For example, you may want to determine whether the property that would be part of your aquaculture operation is zoned for residential or commercial use.


You also will want to determine if your locality participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is a federal program that requires participating communities to adopt local floodplain management regulations. Generally, floodplain management regulations will specify how structures must be developed within floodplains, but each locality may impose different requirements. Flood insurance may also be required.

View the ADAPTVA website for more information about flood risk and management.


Your locality also may have a Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area  (CBPA) ordinance. The CBPA is an example of a state law that is adopted and administered by a locality through their own ordinance and program. Tidewater localities are required to have programs based on the CBPA.  Check your locality’s status online. Depending on the land-based elements of your operation, the CBPA may require you to submit an application to the locality for review. 


Another example of a state law that is adopted and administered at the local level is the Wetlands Act. Depending on the specifics of your operation, activities that disturb wetlands may require submission of an application to the local wetlands board for review. For example, York County’s website includes information about their Wetlands Board. If your locality does not have an established wetlands board, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission acts as the local board.


A local business license also may be required. For example, in Gloucester County, an aquaculture operation that intends to sell directly to consumers must get a business license.  However, if the aquaculture operation intends to sell wholesale to a restaurant or store that, in turn, then sells the product directly to consumers, a local business license is not required. The cost of a business license may vary from locality to locality and are typically based on the business’s gross receipts. Call your locality’s Commissioner of the Revenue Office to determine whether your operation would need a local business license.

Scroll to Top