When it comes to oysters, the North Carolina Coastal Federation has had a fair amount of success convincing lawmakers that shellfish are a good investment in our environment and our economy.
Part of that success depends on our many allies on the oyster issue – and their willingness to take the time to walk the halls of the legislature and talk to legislators about the state’s oyster opportunity.
Two of the federation’s go-to champions on oysters are Ryan Speckman and Lin Peterson of Locals Seafood in Raleigh. Locals Seafood distributes seafood from up and down the North Carolina coast to the Triangle region.
Despite their busy schedules, Ryan and Lin are always ready to come to the General Assembly and talk about the demand for North Carolina shellfish and the oyster growers they work with on the coast. Their hands-on, practical business experience gives lawmakers an easy-to-understand example of the good things that oysters do for water quality and for small business owners.
Of course, Ryan and Lin aren’t the only ones speaking up for oysters – it takes the countless voices of our members, local shellfish growers, fishermen, restaurant owners and many others to win the day in Raleigh. Dan Lewis, a restaurant owner in Southern Shores, won a Pelican Award for his work in promoting oyster restoration and mariculture at the General Assembly. The North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association, led by Jay Styron, has been another tireless advocate for oysters in Raleigh.
Thanks to these many voices, oyster restoration and oyster mariculture efforts continue to gain momentum, and in 2018, the federation continues to expand on these efforts, several of which are supported through appropriations from the General Assembly. Along with several partners, it plans to construct at least 15 more acres of oyster reef through its work at the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary. These acres contribute to the federation’s 50 Million Oyster Initiative, through which it aims to create 50 acres of oyster reef throughout North Carolina’s coast, with each acre supporting one million oysters.
Federation staff are also working on the development of a cost-effective shell recycling program with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. Staff will also be lobbying for funding from the General Assembly to expand and maintain the cultch planting program, which helps to encourage the development of new oyster reefs.
Thanks to everyone who has made our success in the General Assembly possible! Stay tuned for more information about the Legislative Oyster Reception on June 13, where we’ll all have a chance to come together and celebrate our state’s oysters.