Prior to the purchase of any VMRC shellfish licenses or permits, mandatory training must be completed. The training can be completed online, is free, and takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  • A VMRC ID number is required to complete the online training. Contact VMRC main office at 757-247-2127 to receive a VMRC ID number. Use this VMRC ID number to complete the mandatory online harvester course. Upon completion of the course, proceed to a local agent to purchase the permit.


If you harvest aquaculture products, you must have an Aquaculture Product Owners License, or Aquaculture Harvest License. Licenses are issued annually on January 1 of each year and have an end date of December 31. Similar to a driver’s license, all licenses must be carried when working on your grounds and available to be presented to an officer if they request. Additionally, if you participate in commercial oyster aquaculture, you must pay an Oyster Resource User Fee.

Aquaculture Product Owners License

(>$10) Renewable each year comes with mandatory reporting requirements – wait to apply until product is in the water. A Product Owners License is needed to obtain an aquaculture husbandry permit.

Aquaculture Harvester License

(>$5) Renewable each year for hired labor other than the product owner. Obtain from a local agent (to find agent locations https://mrc.virginia.gov/mrcagents.shtm).

Annual Oyster Resource User Fees

There are different fee amounts depending on a variety of factors, for a commercial aquaculture operation on a riparian assignment or general oyster planting ground lease, the fee is $50. Revenue from these fees goes towards the Oyster Replenishment Program, which provides many services for the industry such as spreading oyster shells on water bottoms and training and support for the oyster aquaculture industry.

Other Shellfish Harvest Permits

Shellfish Management Areas: Certain areas have been designated for the protection and promotion of shellfish. Permits for taking shellfish from these designated areas may be obtained from any Marine Patrol Officer or VMRC Office.

Aquaculture husbandry permit: Required from May 1 – Sept 30 for cage culturists who want to handle oysters for husbandry purposes after the designated harvesting times specified in the warm water harvest regulations.

Warm water shellfish GPS permit: Required from May 1 – Sept 30 for the harvest of oysters outside of the designated harvesting times specified in the warm water harvest regulations (for those who work on the tidal cycle).

Shellfish Icing Permit: First, apply for an icing permit with your local Virginia Dept. of Health, Shellfish Sanitation field office. Required from May 1 – Sept 30 for the harvest of oysters using ice outside of the designated harvesting times specified in the warm water harvest regulations.

Online Permit Applications: https://webapps.mrc.virginia.gov/public/fisheries/shellfishpermits.php

Warm Water Harvesting

In order to help preserve health and safety, the VMRC has set daily harvesting curfews for warm water harvesting, by which time all harvesting must stop depending on the time of year. From May 1st to September 30th, it is illegal to harvest oysters after the established curfew times. During this time of the year, all land-based delivers must be made to VDH-approved temperature-controlled trucks.

VMRC provides permits to allow you to harvest after the monthly designated curfew times under specific situations, such as oysters not for raw consumption, or that are quickly placed into temperature control.


If you have questions about license requirements, please contact Mr. Andrew Button at andrew.button@mrc.virginia.gov.  If you have questions about the lease and/or permits, please contact Mr. Ben Stagg at ben.stagg@mrc.virginia.gov


The price of license fee for commercially shucking or packing oysters in Virginia vary in price depending on the amount of oysters shucked or packed. Each shucker or packager must also sell up to 20% of the shells back to VMRC at market price unless they are already planted in Virginia waters.

To shuck and pack oysters:
  • Any number of gallons under 1,000 – $12
  • 1,000 gallons, up to 10,000 – $33
  • 10,000 gallons, up to 25,000 – $74
  • 25,000 gallons, up to 50,000 – $124
  • 50,000 gallons, up to 100,000 – $207
  • 100,000 gallons, up to 200,000 – $290
  • 200,000 gallons or over – $456


VRMC forms can be found here:  https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/forms/index.shtm.

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