Oyster populations, worldwide, are at record lows. Despite some recovery in recent years, in North Carolina it is estimated that oysters are at about 15-20% of historic harvest levels. Oyster harvest is currently the best measure of the oyster population.
Oysters are vital to North Carolina’s coastal ecology and economy. They filter water, provide food for humans and create reefs that build homes for more fish. These environmental functions, in turn, support jobs and provide economic opportunities for coastal communities.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation and its partners are restoring oyster populations by executing the Oyster Restoration and Protection Plan: A Blueprint for Action 2015-2020, which contains goals and provides a framework for oyster restoration and the advancement of oyster mariculture. 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:
- Provide leadership for statewide coordination of oyster restoration and protection efforts
- The federation coordinates a statewide oyster steering committee comprised of researchers, commercial fishers and growers, state and federal agency personnel, non-profit organizations and educators.
- This committee guides the implementation of the current Blueprint and oversees updates to the plan.
- Build New Oyster Sanctuaries
- Promote a statewide cultch planting strategy
- Partner with the Division of Marine Fisheries to evaluate cost-effective methods for deploying and building harvestable reefs throughout the state
- Grow Shellfish Farming
- Promote key strategies and recommendations provided in the 2018 Strategic Mariculture Plan
- Recycle Oyster Shells
- Expand and promote the Restaurant to Reef Shell Recycling Program
- Establish drop off points for shells coastwide
- Collaborate with other entities such as the Division of Marine Fisheries to determine shell placement
- Clean up Growing Areas
- Align our watershed restoration efforts to protect and restore water quality in high priority shellfish growing waters
- Promote efforts to minimize debris from oyster farms
- Continue to engage fishermen, legislators, researchers, students, agencies and the public in the development and execution of these efforts.
Support the federations efforts to build new oyster reefs throughout the state
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.
Check out these resources for all things oysters:
- NCOysters.org, all things North Carolina oysters
- Oyster Restoration and Protection: A Blueprint for Action 2015-2020, the current edition of the oyster Blueprint
- Launching a North Carolina Shellfish Initiative
- NC Strategic Plan for Shellfish Mariculture 2018
- Rural Development Annual Report 2017-2018
- 2018 Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary Handout
- Listen: Podcast about conserving oyster reefs