MA-ShellfAST: a GIS-Based Tool for Shellfish Aquaculture Siting and Permitting

Siting and permitting are key barriers to the continued development of the marine shellfish aquaculture industry. When designing projects, growers must select sites that avoid and minimize environmental impacts and conflicts with a wide array of other uses and where they can obtain all required permits.

Successful siting therefore requires growers — and the agency staff reviewing applications — to understand and apply complex scientific, practical, and regulatory information. Some of the required information is contained in state and federal databases and data viewers, but these resources require sophisticated knowledge to use effectively, and they lack important data — notably, on which regulatory requirements apply in particular locations — and guidance on how to use the data to plan for shellfish production.

The Massachusetts Shellfish Aquaculture Siting Tool (MA-ShellfAST) was developed to assist prospective growers with the siting and permitting process, with a focus on legal compliance and ease of use. This GIS-based, online tool, now available to the public along with extensive documentation, provides key environmental and legal data for consideration by prospective growers, local officials, and state regulators. By using MA-ShellfAST, growers can identify legal and permitting issues at the outset, easily identify site boundaries, and work seamlessly with regulators during site selection and permitting.