The N.C. Oyster Summit: Promoting a Healthy Coastal Environment and Economy
March 10-11 2015
More than 150 state legislators, commercial fishermen, mariculturists, government, academic, private and non-profit professionals met in Raleigh to explore the economic and environmental returns on investing in North Carolina’s oyster restoration, enhancement and production. The Summit, focused on exploring strategies and actions as outlined in the updated Oyster blueprint for Action.
The Oyster Blueprint is a living document, created in 2003, that links oyster and coastal habitat restoration with water quality and watershed restoration; fishery enhancement and mariculture development; and public engagement and stakeholder leadership.
The summary below outlines some of the key discussion points, conclusions and recommendations developed during the Summit.
Participants at the Summit were in agreement that North Carolina has a great opportunity to spark considerable economic growth AND environmental improvement by investing in its oyster fishery and coastal restoration.
This consensus is based on strong evidence of the:
- Environmental and economic returns that can be realized from habitat and water quality restoration,
- Opportunities for public and private partnerships and the significant expansion of private sector involvement in habitat and water quality restoration,
- Small business growth opportunities related to mariculture and coastal restoration
- Impact of mariculture and related coastal restoration can have on coastal economies, particularly in rural coastal counties.
In addition, many participants noted that the benefits of restoring the state’s oyster industry could be done in a way that complements its coastal tourism economy and the unique character of our coastal communities.
The economic benefits of coastal restoration were also confirmed in a recently released report by RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research company.
State Representative Paul Tine keynoted the event with a powerful message, calling for continued support of clean water and oyster restoration efforts in the state. His full speech is available here.
Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography of Oysters, spoke just prior to the legislative reception and suggested that N.C. is well poised, to become the “Napa Valley of Oysters.” Referring to North Carolina as a “sleeping giant” that once awoken, could rival Washington State (the largest producer of cultivated oysters in the country) and Virginia (the fastest growing oyster producing state, growing from $250,000 in 2005 to $45 million in 2014).
The summit confirmed that promoting oyster restoration and mariculture activities benefits both the habitat and economy. Together the group will continue to explore and implement strategies that will promote both including:
- Explore regulatory reform to facilitate the opportunities for mariculture and restoration alike,
- Strengthen public institutions’ capabilities to support coastal restoration and mariculture development (UNCW Shellfish Research Hatchery, SeaGrant Fishery Resource Grants, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries mapping and habitat enhancement),
- Restore and protect priority watersheds so that our waters remain clean and healthy to support these efforts and this growing industry,
Communicate the value and importance of these efforts to the public and decision makers at a state and national level.
The summit was sponsored by: APNEP, Gulf Coast Aggregates, N.C. Catch, N.C. Coastal Federation, North Carolina Sea Grant and The Nature Conservancy.