The North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Sea Grant, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) hosted the 2019 North Carolina Oyster Summit on Tuesday, March 12 in Raleigh, N.C.

The summit took place at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and sold out ahead of the event. The reception that followed at 5:30 p.m. at the newly constructed Transfer Co. Food Hall had over 200 guests register in advance and more purchased tickets at the door.

Social media posts from the event can be found on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #oystersummit2019.

Composed of speeches and interactive panels, the summit covered a wide variety of topics ranging from economic development to protecting wild oysters and promoting clean water to continued development of the mariculture industry, increasing tourism, and marketing North Carolina as the ‘Napa Valley’ of oysters.

The morning was opened with a speech from DEQ Secretary Michael Regan stating Gov. Cooper’s support for the North Carolina mariculture industry. Mary Penny Kelley from the office of the Governor followed with a speech of her own about how the industry could improve rural economic development.

 

 

Rep. Pat McElraft, Carteret and Jones Counties, Sen. Norm Sanderson, Carteret, Craven and Pamlico Counties, and Sen. Rick Gunn, Alamance and Guilford Counties, discussed the legislative support for oyster initiatives during the first panel of the day. In August 2018, North Carolina signed on to NOAA’s National Shellfish Initiative, indicating the state’s commitment to the social, economic and environmental importance of shellfish.

“[The oyster industry] is important enough to do whatever it takes…it is great economically, environmentally, for commercial fishermen, and recreational fishermen,” said Sanderson.

Other panelists and speakers throughout the day included representatives from the federation, DEQ, DMF, NOAA, Sea Grant, Nature Conservancy, Carteret Community College, North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association, UNC Wilmington, UNC Institute for Marine Sciences, North Carolina State University, Pew Charitable Trust, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, North Carolina Wine and Grape Council, North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, Visit North Carolina and many North Carolina oyster growers and restaurateurs.

“We can step on the accelerator, but we also need the proper tools in place to make sure [the oyster industry] is sustainable,” said Chris Matteo, Chadwick Creek Oysters and the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association, during a panel on building the foundation to grow the oyster industry.

Nearly 300 oyster enthusiasts made their way to the legislative reception at Transfer Co. Food Hall following the summit. Guests were able to try oysters from eight growers in North Carolina, each farm’s oyster tasting different than the next, but still equally delicious. Oysters were provided by Hold Fast Oyster Co., N.Sea Oyster Co., Middle Sound Mariculture, Woccocon Oyster Co., Oysters Carolina, Sandbar Oyster Co., Old Baldy Oyster and Core Sound Oyster Co.

 

 

Other small plates were provided by six local restaurants including 18 Seaboard, Locals Oyster Bar, Benchwarmers, Cortez Seafood & Cocktail, St. James Seafood and Coastal Provisions. In addition, the Transfer Co. Food Hall vendors supplied empandas, homemade cookies, bagel bites and dip, as well as Asian inspired chicken wings among other fare. Local draft beers were also on tap at the new event space.

 

 

A huge thank you goes out to Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, Grady-White Boats, Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science, Rob Lamme and Associates, Restoration Systems, LLC., LDSI, The Nature Conservancy, Atlantic Reefmaker, Backwater Environmental, Fred Adams Paving, Transfer Co. Food Hall, Locals Seafood, Locals Oyster Bar, Little Environments, PLLC., North Carolina Sea Grant, Reef Innovations and Sandbar Oyster Company for making this event possible.

See photos from the summit and reception (Photos by Logan Prochaska):