(1) The department is hereby designated as the lead agency in encouraging the development of aquaculture in the state and shall have and exercise the following functions, powers, and duties with regard to aquaculture:
(a) Issue or deny aquaculture certificates that identify aquaculture producers and aquaculture products, and collect all related fees.
(b) Coordinate the development, annual revision, and implementation of a state aquaculture plan. The plan shall include prioritized recommendations for research and development as suggested by the Aquaculture Review Council and public and private institutional research, extension, and service programs.
(c) Develop memoranda of agreement, as needed, with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Sea Grant Program, and other groups as provided in the state aquaculture plan.
(d) Provide staff for the Aquaculture Review Council.
(e) Forward the annually revised state aquaculture plan to the commissioner and to the chairs of the House Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Senate Committee on Agriculture 1 month prior to submission of the department’s legislative budget request to the Governor.
(f) Submit the list of research and development projects proposed to be funded through the department as identified in the state aquaculture plan, along with the department’s legislative budget request to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If funded, these projects shall be contracted for by the Division of Aquaculture and shall require public-private partnerships, when appropriate. The contracts shall require a percentage of the profit generated by the project to be deposited into the General Inspection Trust Fund solely for funding aquaculture projects recommended by the Aquaculture Review Council.
(g) Provide developmental assistance to the various sectors of the aquaculture industry as determined in the state aquaculture plan.
(h) Assist persons seeking to engage in aquaculture when applying for the necessary permits and serve as ombudsman to resolve complaints or otherwise resolve problems arising between aquaculture producers and regulatory agencies.
(i) Develop and propose to the Legislature legislation necessary to implement the state aquaculture plan or to otherwise encourage the development of aquaculture in the state.
(j) Issue or deny any license or permit authorized or delegated to the department by the Legislature or through memorandum of understanding with other state or federal agencies that furthers the intent of the Legislature to place the regulation of aquaculture in the department.
(k) Make available state lands and the water column for the purpose of producing aquaculture products when the aquaculture activity is compatible with state resource management goals, environmental protection, and proprietary interest and when such state lands and waters are determined to be suitable for aquaculture development by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund pursuant to s. 253.68; provide training as necessary to lessees; and be responsible for all saltwater aquaculture activities located on sovereignty submerged land or in the water column above such land and adjacent facilities directly related to the aquaculture activity.
1. The department shall act in cooperation with other state and local agencies and programs to identify and designate sovereignty lands and waters that would be suitable for aquaculture development.
2. The department shall identify and evaluate specific tracts of sovereignty submerged lands and water columns in various areas of the state to determine where such lands and waters are suitable for leasing for aquaculture purposes. Nothing in this subparagraph or subparagraph 1. shall preclude the applicant from applying for sites identified by the applicant.
3. The department shall provide assistance in developing technologies applicable to aquaculture activities, evaluate practicable production alternatives, and provide agreements to develop innovative culture practices.
(l) Act as a clearinghouse for aquaculture applications, and act as a liaison between the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Division of State Lands, the Department of Environmental Protection district offices, other divisions within the Department of Environmental Protection, and the water management districts. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall be responsible for regulating marine aquaculture producers, except as specifically provided herein.