Overview of Georgia Aquaculture Regulations
Tilapia are becoming increasingly popular as a food fish species and they are often considered for use as part of aquaculture demonstration projects. Despite the growing popularity of tilapia, and the widespread availability of fish, there are some specific legal requirements related to keeping, raising, and selling tilapia that prospective culturists and educators should be aware of.
Under the Georgia Law (O.C.G.A. 27-5-5) pertaining to the Wild Animal Licenses requirements for fish, tilapia are considered an exotic fish species. Tilapia, and certain other exotic fish species*, may be raised and held in aquaria or tanks under certain conditions without needing to obtain any special licenses or permits. Selling tilapia will always require a license from DNR. The type of license required depends on how the fish are held (see below).
*Certain fish species always require a DNR-issued Wild Animal License, and may require liability insurance, regardless of how they are held. Tilapia are not one of those species. Included fish may be found on this list - Exotic Animals List.
Below is some information that will help you decide what licenses and permits may be required for culturing tilapia. Please consult this information before you begin a project or obtain fish. For technical assistance with aquaculture production, fish culture, or ponds please contact the appropriate District or Regional Fisheries Management office that handles the county that your business operation, school, or pond is located in. You may find the appropriate office by clicking here (choose "Fisheries Management" for the office search).
Can tilapia be stocked into ponds and lakes in Georgia?
Tilapia may not be stocked into ponds or lakes. This includes stocking for the purpose of raising them as a cultured species or for use as a forage species for other fish (i.e. supplemental feeding of trophy largemouth bass).
When would holding or raising tilapia REQUIRE a conditioned Wild Animal License (WAL) from DNR?
Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 27-5-5(b)(6)), all exotic fish which are not held in aquaria or tanks under certain conditions require a WAL. If tilapia are held or raised in a manner that does NOT meet all of the following conditions, a WAL would be required. Conditions that must minimally be met:
If your project or operation doesn't minimally meet the requirements listed above in numbers 1 and 2, then you need to contact DNR to find out about obtaining a Wild Animal License for tilapia.
The full wording of the "tank and aquaria exclusion" of the Wild Animal Act may also be found here - O.C.G.A. 27-5-5(b)(6). Scroll down through the page to Paragraph (b)(6).
What are some examples of situations where conditions of the "tank and aquaria exclusion" ARE met (and a WAL would NOT be required)?
What are some examples of specific situations where all conditions of the "tank and aquaria exclusion" would NOT be met (and a WAL WOULD be required)? The following is not all-inclusive, but rather provides some examples of specific situations that may arise.
If a conditioned WAL is required for a tilapia project or operation, what types of conditions may be generally required? (Note: although all WALs are individually conditioned, the following examples show what may be required).
What DNR licenses are required to legally sell tilapia?
Can tilapia be sold with an Aquaculture Registration?
No. An Aquaculture Registration only covers the culture and sale of domestic fish species (such as channel catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, etc). Information on Aquaculture Registrations and general aquaculture permit requirements may be found here.
How do you apply for a Wild Animal License (WAL) from DNR and what fees are involved?
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