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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Shellfish Aquaculture Improvement Act

Read the Full Bill Here

View the PDF One-Pager Here





Background / Problem


  • The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 sets a broad definition of seaman to include all workers who operate in the water.
  • Since then, our nation’s aquaculture industry has taken off, but this antiquated policy still impacts them.
  • Today, shellfish growers who operate within state waters are required to carry two forms of insurance.
    • They must carry a state workers compensation insurance policy and also maritime insurance policy under the Merchant Marine Act.
  • Aquaculture has no relevance to the Act’s original national security and coastal commerce intent.
    • Shellfish aquaculture is a near-shore, water-dependent, farming operation, normally conducted solely within state waters.
  • This is an unnecessary cost burden on businesses.
    • Merchant Marine Act coverage is typically more expensive (varies by state but sometimes as much as 3x more expensive than state workers compensation)
    • One business in New Jersey with 32 boats is forced to pay $250,000 a year in Merchant Marine Act insurance alone




  • The Shellfish Aquaculture Improvement Act of 2018 would rectify this by waiving the requirement for shellfish growers to carry both forms of insurance.
    • Under this legislation, in states where both forms are offered, the shellfish growers would only be required to carry a state workers compensation policy.




For more information or to sign on as a cosponsor contact Max Fenkell at: or (202) 225-3176