Oysters in North Carolina’s coastal waters have declined by an estimated 50-90 percent in the last 100 years due to overharvest, disease and polluted waters. The federation and its partners are restoring these populations by executing the Oyster Restoration and Protection Plan: A Blueprint for Action 2015-2020, which contains seven goals that provide a framework for oyster restoration and the advancement of oyster mariculture. Oyster restoration and oyster mariculture benefit both the environment and economy. Oysters filter water and provide habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, so replenishing oysters through restoration efforts is vitally important. Mariculture and restoration work also provide full-time and seasonal jobs for contractors, fishermen, seafood dealers, restaurants and others. Clean water supports a billion-dollar tourism industry and healthy coastal communities.
The federation’s goal is to have the North Carolina coast regarded as the “Napa Valley” of oysters. We are working closely with and helping to coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders to build a statewide network of oyster sanctuaries, enhance shellfish management areas, improve and protect water quality and implement other priority actions. We also engage and educate the public to build political support for oyster restoration.
The federation and its partners will promote oyster restoration and mariculture by working on the following:
- Construct new acres of oyster reef by 2020 as part of the 50 Million Oyster Initiative, with 10 acres constructed in 2018 at the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary.
- Develop a cost-effective oyster shell recycling program.
- Maintain and expand the cultch planting program through public-private partnerships and funding from the North Carolina General Assembly.
- Expand the oyster mariculture industry along the coast as a green industry and a way to increase people’s investment in protecting coastal water quality.
- Continue to engage fishermen, legislators, researchers, students, agencies and the public in the development and execution of these plans.
- Launching a North Carolina Shellfish Initiative to recognize the importance of shellfish to the environment and economy. The Initiative prioritizes four goals: create jobs, protect water quality, protect shellfish health and ensure sustainable management. North Carolina signed on to NOAA’s National Shellfish Initiative on August 2, 2018, becoming the first state in the Southeast to do so.
- Working with multiple stakeholders to create a North Carolina Strategic Plan for Shellfish Mariculture that was submitted to the state in December 2018. This plan will help grow the North Carolina shellfish industry in a sustainable way.
Check out these resources for all things oysters:
- NCOysters.org, the clearinghouse for all things North Carolina oysters
- NC Strategic Plan for Shellfish Mariculture 2018
- Rural Development Annual Report 2017-2018
- Oyster Restoration and Protection Plan: A Blueprint for Action 2015-2020
- Launching a North Carolina Shellfish Initiative
- 2017 State of the Oyster Report
- Listen: Podcast about conserving oyster reefs
- 2018 Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary Handout
- 2016 State of the Oyster Report
- 2016 study by RTI International
- 2015 State of the Oyster Report
- 2015 Oyster Summit Report
- Oyster Workshop 2014 Proceedings
The North Carolina Coastal Federation has developed a working map of sites along the North Carolina coast where oyster restoration projects have been built. This map features descriptions, photos, funding agencies and more. Click on the various sites below and check back for new additions.