By the numbers

140 Million Oysters

  • Restored: 43 acres of oyster reef habitat
  • Filtered: 7 billion gallons of water daily
  • Supported: Millions of fish and wildlife

The Restoration Continues

You can support even more oyster restoration by supporting Adopt an Oyster.

From 2017 to 2020, the federation and partners worked to build acres of new oyster reef and support at least 50 million oysters. Known as the 50 Million Oyster Initiative, this project proved to be tremendously successful, nearly tripling the initial goal.

The initiative launched in Pamlico Sound, where the federation, state Division of Marine Fisheries and partners created 40 acres of new oyster sanctuary between 2017 and 2019. Monitoring by the Division of Marine Fisheries in 2020 indicated oyster densities as high as 2,000 oysters per meter squared on this reef. This translates to roughly 136 million oysters when the reef architecture is fully accounted for. This monitoring also showed that these sanctuaries provide 40% of all the oysters in the Pamlico Sound, illustrating their importance to the entire ecosystem.

In addition to the highly successful Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary, an additional 3.5 acres of oyster reef were created as living shorelines and patch reefs throughout the state along private property and in harvestable waters. Monitoring results from these patch reefs indicate they also support high densities of oysters.

All in all, the 50 Million Oyster Initiative resulted in the restoration of nearly 140 Million oysters throughout coastal North Carolina, nearly three times the initial goal. With each adult oyster capable of filtering 50 gallons of water per day, those 140 million oysters will filter seven billion gallons of water– every single day.

An Investment in the Coast

The 50 Million Oyster Initiative put all of oysters’ many benefits to work, short-term and long-term. It provided jobs for contractors, fishermen, construction workers, truck drivers and many others during the construction of the reefs. The reefs are now busy providing fish habitat and improving water quality, which benefits both commercial and recreational fishermen, the tourism industry and the coastal environment as a whole for years to come. Learn more about how the federation’s work supports the local economy:

This project was funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through state appropriations from the North Carolina General Assembly, state grant funds from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (now the Land and Water Fund) for oyster habitat in living shorelines, foundation support from Grady White Boats, the Camp Younts Foundation, the Campbell Foundation and contributions and membership support from donors like you.

Continuing Oyster Restoration

Since 2003 the federation has spearheaded efforts to restore oysters, working in an interdisciplinary way with countless partners, including state agencies, legislators, commercial and recreational fishermen, contractors, local businesses and coastal residents and visitors. The federation will continue to work with these stakeholders on future projects. In fact, funding secured in 2020 will allow the federation and partners to begin construction on a new oyster sanctuary in the spring of 2021. Read more about the recently completed Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary and new Cedar Island Oyster Sanctuary here.


Oysters are the cornerstone of our estuaries, and when oysters are healthy, the coastal environment and economy grows.


If you have questions, please contact Erin Fleckenstein, coastal scientist and regional manager at the Wanchese office, at or 252-473-1607.

The Restoration Continues

You can support even more oyster restoration by supporting Adopt an Oyster.