Guest Column: Hatteras Connection is working to ensure a future for
By SUSAN WEST
I remember a time when fish houses rocked to a steady beat of commerce,
and the poignant scent of fish money trailed through Hatteras Island’s
ago. Most of those fish houses have shut their doors, and
those fishermen have traded in their boots for jobs.
as my generation has known it, is disappearing.
be the final destination.
Hatteras Connection, a community-based project dedicated to sustainable
economic development and environmental stewardship, is committed to
working to ensure a future for new generations of watermen on our
the island’s culture and heritage, and it should be part of our future
renewable marine resources fits nicely into an economy driven by the
principles of sustainability. Commercial fishing can work
glove with emerging economic and social trends, such as the local food
movement, eco-economics, cultural tourism, and food security.
a green industry that can sustainably produce food indefinitely without
causing harm or irreversible damage to the ecosystem. And,
ongoing progress in the development of local markets and in engine
efficiency technology promises to reduce the carbon footprint
associated with the business.
as its name suggests, is all about building bridges and partnerships
with people and organizations that share a vision of healthy coastal
economies strengthened by commercial fishing.
Hatteras Connection started working with the Core Sound Waterfowl
Museum and Heritage Center under a North Carolina Rural Economic
Development Center grant called “Sustaining Community and Natural
Economies in Coastal North Carolina.”
$350,000 grant is being used to develop and implement an asset-based
economic development initiative for the unincorporated villages along
the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, from Whalebone Junction to the
village of Bettie in Carteret County.
growing innovative economic development that enhances and protects the
coastal region’s unique cultural and natural resources and the strong
sense of place that has supported coastal villages for
generations. The grant is designed to retain jobs, generate
supplemental income opportunities, and develop small businesses in
natural resource based sectors, especially commercial fishing and
$200,000 will be available for implementing community projects on
Hatteras Island, Ocracoke, and Down East, Carteret County.
Some of the
themes to emerge in discussions on Hatteras Island include the need to
enhance opportunities for local businesses rooted in our cultural or
natural resources, make local seafood work better for the local
economy, enhance entrepreneurial opportunities for young people, and
explore economic development incubation concepts.
One leg of
research portion of the grant is the Hatteras Island Asset Mapping
project. Residents and visitors are invited to help identify
significant cultural, natural, and business assets in our
Policies Board 2010 Report called The Road to Recovery is Named Main
Street found that developing a community asset map that
identifies community strengths is one the top strategies communities
can use in response to the current economic downturn.
asset mapping and other facets of the Rural Center grant project are
available at Saltwater Connections.
also has partnered with NC Sea Grant and Cape Hatteras Secondary School
of Coastal Studies to create a seafood marketing youth team.
students at the
school are developing print, video, audio and social media advertising
that explains how buying locally harvested seafood helps sustain the
culture and the economy of Hatteras Island and that tells what the
commercial fishing industry means to the community.
created by the students will be made available to Outer Banks Catch and
other programs that are working to educate consumers about seafood
availability, local fishing methods, and community fishing
also supports other seafood marketing initiatives that hold the promise
of growing consumer demand for local seafood, diversifying markets, and
decreasing dependence on global market fluctuations.
organized two seafood dinners to support Hatteras Island Meals, Inc.
and the Hatteras Island Food Pantry. Watermen donated fish,
chefs donated culinary talent, and residents and businesses contributed
other supplies and labor. The dinners have raised $5,418 for
charitable food organizations, and collected non-perishable items for
also set up a system for island fishermen to donate fish weekly to
Hatteras Island Meals for lunches delivered to elderly or ill
islanders. In addition to saving the meals program money, the
lunches featuring local fish have been popular, especially with older
clients who grew up eating trout, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel from
our inshore waters.
working with The Conservation Fund on innovative ways to protect
working waterfronts on the island. Commercial docking space
filled to capacity and the closure of another fish house will leave
fishermen scrambling for slips.
isn’t blind to the very real regulatory and trade issues that are
battering our island’s fishing fleet, but we have decided against
allowing those challenges to rob us of the resourcefulness that has
always served our community.