Lakeway Tilapia - The tilapia farming experts.

Is tilapia legal?

A guide by Lakeway Tilapia

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Tilapia legal information

For several years we relied upon each state to provide accurate information to their residents. So this page contained little more than links and phone numbers to individual state resources. Unfortunately there were several problems with this approach. The biggest being that the phone numbers, web links and appointed officials were constantly changing. It became impossible for us to stay on top of all of the monthly changes across 50 states and 16 territories.

Another big problem with the content on this page had to do with the tilapia legal information itself. As it turns out, most of the people picking up the phones didn't have answers. We could call three times and get three different responses to the same question. This was also frustrating to our readers who let us know about it on a regular basis. This page was costing us a fortune in payroll to maintain and we weren't getting any return. We were left with only one solution.

Instead of relying on county clerks and secretaries to respond to inquiries for which they have no knowledge, we are going to answer the most frequently asked questions right here on this page. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to send us an email and we'll share what we know with you.

Frequently asked questions

Here are the most frequently asked questions over the last few years. Some of them may be redundant, but we want to be complete. We've grouped questions and answers together by topic. Please note that we have chosen our words very carefully. You are safe to assume that the facts expressed below are accurate but please do not infer anything outside of what has actually been stated.

Questions about purchasing tilapia

Here are the three most popular questions of all about purchasing tilapia.

Is it legal for me to buy tilapia?

Yes. It is absolutely legal for you to buy tilapia fry and fingerlings from Lakeway Tilapia.

I live in ..., can I buy tilapia?

It does not matter where you live. There are absolutely no laws, enacted by any State Legislature, preventing you from buying anything from Lakeway Tilapia.

Will you ship to me in ...?

Yes. Lakeway Tilapia will ship to all 50 states and 16 territories without hesitation.

Questions about raising tilapia

Generally speaking, state legislatures do not pass laws prohibiting aquaculture. States usually leave those decisions up to appointed individuals who set guidelines to aid in the protection of the environment and indigenous wildlife. As for private tilapia farming, their primary concern is with irresponsible people who allow their tilapia to get into state managed lakes and rivers.

Important point: People who set up aquaponics systems then give their fish names and treat them like pets are at the heart of the problem. All animal farming involves killing animals. The fish in aquaponics are no different. Please do not release them. The most humane way to kill tilapia is to put them into a bucket of ice water.

I have been told that I can only have Mozambique tilapia.

In spite of the fact that every river in Texas, from the Rio Grande to the Canadian, has a variety of Tilapia, Texas only allows it's residents to raise Mozambique without going through a lengthy approval process. Not surprising the approval process involves an evaluation of how you intend to prevent your tilapia from escaping your farm in the event of a flood. Oregon residents are limited to Mozambique period and there is no approval process for any other species. The idea is that Mozambique have such a poor tolerance to cool water that they can't survive in Oregon's lakes and rivers anyhow.

I am in Alaska.

The Alaskan salmon industry has flexed their muscles to get all forms of aquaculture (other than salmon) outlawed in Alaska. Fortunately, we can still sell you tilapia of any species as pets. Just promise that you won't eat them.

I am in Canada.

Okay Canada is not a state, but the rules for Canada are almost the same as for Alaska, so now seems like a good time to mention it. While Canada has not outlawed aquaculture to prevent business competition from non-salmon species, they do make buying fish farming stock from non-Canadian sources a bit more involved. Fortunately, like Alaska, they have no restrictions on fish sold as pets. So when you buy from Lakeway Tilapia, don't be surprised when your fish arrived labeled as "aquarium specimens".

I am in Hawaii.

Hawaii is challenging but not impossible. The State officials will intercept your tilapia at the airport, open the box and look for the importation permit. It's no trouble however, Lakeway Tilapia is on the approved senders list in nearly every state that keeps such lists. Just make sure that you mail us the paperwork to include with the shipment.

Note: we are currently working on this page as of August 2017. Please do not leave disappointed, just come back when we've finished.

Additional information

Inspection and certification

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.