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Is tilapia legal in?

A guide by Lakeway Tilapia

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State by state tilapia legal information

We do not report to any state enforcement authority

While many states require their citizens to have permits to possess or import tilapia, none of these states pay us to enforce their laws, or require us to report tilapia exports from our home state of Tennessee. The decision to abide by the rules and regulations of your state is up to you. You do not have to show us your permits, we will automatically assume that you have them and will ship your order. You should also consider that in some states, the permit requirements only apply to commercial operators, not private citizens. Just so we're clear - We're not anti-government, it's just not our job.

The information on this page was gathered from several Internet sources, as well as our own inquiries. It is not intended as, nor should it be used as, a replacement for your own research. Laws change all the time, as well as phone numbers, email addresses, and links. Over time, inaccuracies are bound to occur. If you see any information below that needs updating, please email us at info@lakewaytilapia.com, and we will fix it right away. Remember, most of the information on this page is being provided as a courtesy, to help get you pointed in the right direction. Under no circumstances, should it be considered as legal advice or expertise. We make no claim as to its usefulness, for any purpose, whatsoever. Yeah, the lawyer made us say that.

State tilapia legal information

All States

Some sites are mis-reporting that a USDA Meat Processing License is required to sell processed filets. This is incorrect. Seafood falls under the FDA, not the USDA. To sell processed filets, you will need a HACCP certification. HACCP is an acronym for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. Cornel University and the National Seafood HACCP Alliance offer an online course that you can complete before taking a final exam in person. Visit seafoodhaccp.cornell.edu for more information.
As you sell your fully grown tilapia, you may encounter buyers who require a health certificate. If this is the case, you will need to locate a veterinarian who knows how to pack and ship live fish. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service might be able to assist you in finding a local vet. Visit aphis.usda.gov to learn more or to find your local state office.

We've got a page to help you understand more about tilapia health inspections here.

Alabama

According to Steven J. Rider of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, no permits are required to raise tilapia in ponds in Alabama as long as they aren't connected to a public waterway. His email address is steve.rider@dcnr.alabama.gov.
If you are going to sell your tilapia on ice or as processed filets you will need to get a Food Safety Permit from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Their phone number is 334-240-7171. This permit will cost you 50 dollars.
If for some reason you are raising tilapia in a public waterway, you will need to speak with the Alabama Department of Conservation at 334-242-3849 about getting a Fish Dealer's License.

Alaska

It is a crime to raise any tilapia as food in Alaska. You can raise them as ornamental pets without a permit, but if you eat your pet tilapia, you are guilty of a misdemeanor. This information comes directly from Bob Piorkowski, Ph. D. of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. His phone number is 907-465-6109 or if you prefer, his email address is robert.piorkowski@alaska.gov.

Arizona

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Arizona. You will however need an Aquatic Wildlife Stocking Permit, which costs nothing. You can find more information about this permit at www.azgfd.gov

Arkansas

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Arkansas.

California

It is illegal to raise tilapia in California, except for the following six counties: San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Imperial and Orange. If you are in one of those six counties you must register as a State Permitted Aquaculture Facility. Here's a link to the application, nrm.dfg.ca.gov

Colorado

It is legal to raise three species of tilapia in Colorado with a permit. The legal species are Blue, Nile and Mozambique. It is illegal to raise Wami (Oreochromis urolepis hornorum) or their hybrids. You will need an Aquaculture Permit which will cost you 100 dollars. Contact Scott Leach of the Colorado Department of Agriculture about the permit application at 303-239-4295 or you can email him at scott.leach@ag.state.co.us

Connecticut

No information available.

Delaware

No information available.

Florida

You need a permit for Restricted Cichlidae. There is a fee for the permit and an inspection of your facility is also required. Visit www.floridaaquaculture.com for more information and to download the permit application.

Georgia

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Georgia. There are a few guidelines however. You can get more information at www.georgiawildlife.com

Hawaii

It is legal to raise two species of tilapia in Hawaii. The legal species are Blue and Mozambique. It is illegal to raise Nile (Oreochromis niloticus) and Wami (Oreochromis urolepis hornorum). You must get an import permit to bring them into Hawaii. A one-time permit costs 50 dollars and a yearly permit costs 200 dollars. You can only import tilapia from a facility that is certified as disease free. Contact the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture or visit them on the web at hdoa.hawaii.gov

Idaho

No permit is required to raise tilapia for private use in Idaho. If you want to raise tilapia for sale, you will need to get a two-year commercial fish rearing license for 25 dollars. Contact the Idaho Department of Agriculture at 208-332-8500 for more information.

Illinois

A permit is required to raise tilapia in Illinois. The permit costs 50 dollars and requires an inspection of your facility prior to approval. Contact Blake Ruebush at the State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources at 217-558-4743 or email him at blake.ruebush@illinois.gov

Indiana

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Indiana for private use in private water. If you intend to sell live fish, you will need a Fish Hauler and Supplier permit. This permit is provided at no cost. Contact the State of Indiana Department of Natural Resources for more information at 317-232-4200.

Iowa

A permit is required to have tilapia for commercial purposes and for anyone importing tilapia into Iowa. Contact the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for more information.

Kansas

No permit is required to raise tilapia in private waters in Kansas.

Kentucky

A permit is required to raise tilapia in Kentucky. The Fisheries Commercial Propagation Permit costs 50 dollars and can be obtained from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Their phone number is 800-858-1549 and you can download the application at fw.ky.gov

Louisiana

No information available.

Maine

No information available.

Maryland

No information available.

Massachusetts

No information available.

Michigan

No permit is required to raise tilapia for private use in Michigan. Additionally, no permit is required to raise tilapia for retail bait stores, as pets, for public aquariums or for portable fishing concessions. You only need a permit if you are selling fish to others outside of these conditions. You can start the permit process by visiting the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's licensing details web page at www.michigan.gov

Minnesota

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Minnesota. You may not introduce them into any public waterway. Contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources or visit their Invasive Species Laws web page at www.dnr.state.mn.us

Mississippi

No information available.

Missouri

A letter of permission is required to raise tilapia in Missouri. Your facility must be fully self-contained with no possibility of discharge into any public waterway. You may however use a city sewer system for water changes. To get the permission letter, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation at 573-751-4115.

Montana

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Montana. Contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at 406-444-2448 for any changes to the laws.

Nebraska

No information available.

Nevada

A permit is required to raise tilapia Nevada. The best thing to do is to contact the Supervising Biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife at 702-486-5127 and let them know what you want to do. You'll have to obtain a possession permit as well as an importation permit. Additionally you may only import tilapia into Nevada from facilities that have an approved health certificate on file with the State Veterinarian.

New Hampshire

A permit is required to raise tilapia in New Hampshire. Contact the Hatchery Supervisor with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. His email address is jason.smith@wildlife.nh.gov

New Jersey

No permit is required to raise tilapia in New Jersey. For more information or to get any updates to the laws pertaining to tilapia, call the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Department at 609-292-8642.

New Mexico

All tilapia raised within the state of New Mexico must be treated with sex-reversal hormones or be sterile (triploid). Only two species are allowed: Nile and Mozambique. Absolutely no breeding is allowed. New Mexico's Department of Game and Fish is a prime example of what happens when environmentalists are allowed to make decision for agriculture. Read the full story of New Mexico's fight to make tilapia legal by touching or clicking here. Citizens of New Mexico are urged to read the first couple of paragraphs on this page before placing their order.

New York

No permit is required to raise tilapia in New York. Your facility must be a closed-loop recirculating water system. Contact the Fisheries Department at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for more information

North Carolina

A permit is required to raise tilapia in North Carolina. It is not clear if a permit from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is still required. However, you are urged to contact them at 919-707-0100. At the time of this writing the person in charge is Kyle Briggs. His number is 919-707-0220. In addition, you may need a permit from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. You can visit them on the web at www.ncagr.gov

North Dakota

No information available.

Ohio

A permit is required to raise tilapia in Ohio. You will need a Class B Aquaculture permit ($100) from the Department of Natural Resources to raise tilapia in Ohio. Here is a link to the application that you will need. The contact addresses are at the bottom of the form.

Oklahoma

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Oklahoma for private use provided that they are not sold as live bait or introduced into any waterway. If you want to sell tilapia as food, you must be a licensed aquaculturist. Contact the Oklahoma Wildlife Department at 405-521-3721 for more information.

Oregon

No permit is required to raise 3 species of tilapia in Oregon. Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus) is prohibited. A Transport Permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is required by us before we can ship tilapia to you. It is not clear if raising tilapia for commercial purposes is allowed in Oregon. Contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information.

Pennsylvania

A permit is required to propagate (breed) or deal tilapia in Pennsylvania. The permit is called an Artificial Propagation License and it costs 150 dollars. Contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-783-5301 for more information or an application.

Rhode Island

No permit is required to raise tilapia in Rhode Island. It is however illegal to raise them in such a way that they might escape into the environment. There are other regulations that apply to commercial operations. Contact the Supervising Fresh Water Biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management at 401-789-0281 for more information.

South Carolina

No permit is required to raise tilapia in South Carolina for personal use. Commercial operations are required to have a permit. Contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at 803-734-3878 for more information.

South Dakota

No permit is required to raise tilapia in South Dakota provided that they are not put into any waterways or open bodies of water, public or private. An importation permit is required to bring tilapia into the state. Contact the South Dakota Department of Fish Game and Parks at 605-381-9641 for more information.

Tennessee

No permit is required to raise 3 tilapia species in Tennessee. Wami tilapia (Oreochromis urolepis hornorum) and its hybrids can only be raised with an Experimental Aquaculture Permit. If you intend to sell tilapia commercially, you will also need a Fish Dealers License. Contact Eric Ganus, of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency at 615-837-4255 to request the Experimental Aquaculture Permit. The Fish Dealers license can be purchases any where that fishing licenses are sold. Again, you do not need a permit to raise Blue, Nile or Mozabmique tilapia in tennessee. Only a fish dealers license if you intend to sell them.

Texas

A permit is required to raise 3 species of tilapia commercially in Texas. Wami tilapia (Oreochromis urolepis hornorum) are not allowed. The only species that can be raised privately without a permit is Mozambique (Oreochromis mossambicus). The name of the permit you ultimately need is an Exotic Species Permit and it takes a couple of other permits to get there. First you need to contact TCEQ for an exemption form that basically certifies that you don't have any wastewater runoff. You can get this from TCEQ by calling 512-239-4541. Then you will need to get an Aquaculture License from the Texas Department of Agriculture. You can call 512-936-2430 to obtain this. Then you have to send in copies of these permits along with your application for an Exotic Species Permit to Texas Parks and Wildlife along with 263 dollars and they will schedule an inspection of your facility. You can contact Texas Parks and Wildlife at 512-389-8750.

Utah

No information available.

Vermont

No information available.

Virginia

Permits are required to raise tilapia in Virginia. Actually two permits are required: A license to possess them and a license to import them. Applications for the two permits can be found on the web at www.dgif.virginia.gov and here. After processing your applications, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will inspect your facility to make sure that your fish can't make their way into the wild.

Washington

A permit is required to raise tilapia in Washington. A Fish Transport must be obtained from the Department of Fish and Wildlift. The permit costs 24 dollars. We are also required to fill out a form before sending tilapia to you. Call 360-902-2667 for more information or to apply for a permit.

West Virginia

A permit is required to raise tilapia in West Virginia. Contact the West Virginia Wildlife Resources Division at 304-558-2771 for more information or to obtain a permit.

Wisconsin

No information available

Wyoming

No information available