have been getting a lot of press lately,” Greg “Rudi” Rudolph, Carteret
County’s shore protection officer, said during the N.C. Beach, Inlet
and Waterway Association’s recent two-day meeting of at the N.C.
Aquarium. The trend will continue, if a number of shellfish advocates
have their way.
evangelists are spreading the word about how new aquaculture
techniques, marketing ideas and state and private investment in North
Carolina’s shellfish resources could lead to an unusual pairing of
economic development and environmental improvement.
are living filters and improving their numbers helps improve water
quality. That they are also a culinary delicacy that provides the
perfect accompaniment to the state’s booming craft beer, wine and
tourism industries has both environmentalists and capitalists licking
leaders are getting on board with the idea. Beaufort’s town commission
earlier this month approved a resolution supporting the state’s plans
for oyster restoration as a way to enhance the environment and economy
of the N.C. coast. Other towns, including Pine Knoll Shores, are also
set to consider similar resolutions.
Harry Brown, R-Onslow, and Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico, said at the
meeting that the state’s move toward restoration and capitalizing on
the results is gaining favor with lawmakers from across the state.
past budget we probably spent $2 million plus $2 million more in the
budget for oyster restoration and I think we’ll continue to get as much
money as possible for that. I think it’s got legs now and it’s
something we’ll continue to do,” Brown said.
agreed. “We’re being out-produced probably 10 to one by Virginia and
we’ve got a whole lot more coastal habitat that’s more suitable and
it’s a win-win situation,” he said. “The first hurdle we had to get
over was convincing the commercial people we weren’t trying to take
their industry away from them, but I think we’re over that hurdle and,
after we get it how we want to do it, we can begin to lay this out and
CREATING JOBS, NEW MARKETS
comment about the recent focus came as he introduced a panel discussion
on restoring the state’s once-thriving oyster industry. The discussion
included an oyster-farming entrepreneur, representatives from
economic-development organizations, a N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
official and Todd Miller, director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, an
environmental group that makes oyster restoration a top priority.
“This is an opportunity to not only do something great for the environment on the coast but also the economy,” Miller said.
referenced a recent study of several North Carolina coastal restoration
projects that showed an $8 million investment in four different coastal
restoration projects in the state created 116 jobs, $13.8 million in
revenue to coastal community businesses and produced an added $4.1
million to coastal community household earnings.
study by RTI International of Research Triangle Park for the
Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership showed that for every $1
million invested in coastal restoration 10 to 30 jobs are
created, depending on the type of project. The research also found that
the relatively low-cost approach to coastal restoration benefits
industries that are key to North Carolina’s coastal economy, including
commercial and recreational fishing and tourism.
Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership is an effort by the N.C.
Department of Environmental Quality with funding from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. Its program area covers most of the
Albemarle-Pamlico watershed, including the Neuse, Tar-Pamlico,
Pasquotank, Chowan, lower Roanoke and parts of the White Oak River
report, “Economic Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Restoration and
Enhancement of Shellfish Habitat and Oyster Propagation in North
Carolina,” shows that just over $20 million in government and private
investment in years 2010-15 supported more than 500 acres of habitat,
benefited commercial and recreational fishing activities and improved
water quality. The investment yielded $82 million in benefits,
according to the research.
included nearly 700 jobs created over the period, $32 million in
revenue generated for N.C. businesses and $13 million added to
dollar invested in habitat enhancement activities provided North
Carolina with about $4.05 in benefits, according to the study.
The RTI report is not the only recent study of its kind, state officials are taking a close look, too.
Murphey, chief of the Habitat and Enhancement Section of the N.C.
Division of Marine Fisheries, said the legislature ordered his
department to provide a half-dozen or so reports in time for the
session that began last week. Three of the reports deal specifically
with oysters, he said during the discussion.
reports focus on changing existing law related to developing the
proposed Sen. Jean Preston Oyster Sanctuary, a 10-year plan for a
network of protected oyster beds in the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds;
recommendations relevant to shellfish aquaculture, oyster restoration
and oyster diseases; and opening a portion of Core Sound to leasing
following a moratorium there on shellfish leases that dates back to
also were given money to contract with UNC-Wilmington to develop oyster
brood stock,” Murphey said, adding that the brood stock lines are
species “that do very well in our waters.”
said demand exceeds supply and more hatcheries are needed. Also needed,
he said is a long-term, statewide shellfish aquaculture plan to put
North Carolina in a more competitive position with other states that
have developed successful shellfish industries. Most successful states
have a plan in place, “so I don’t really think we have to reinvent the
wheel,” he said.
appeal of shellfish aquaculture enticed Jay Styron, a Carteret County
native now living in Wilmington. Styron started Carolina Mariculture
Co. in 2007 to enter the premium oyster market, a business segment in
which North Carolina oysters hadn’t competed. His method of off-bottom
farming in cages at Cedar Island produces oysters for the half-shell
market, which demands consistent shell shape and quality that aren’t
otherwise possible here. Farmed oysters command a higher price and are
branded, carrying the name of the place where they’re grown.
not just transporting a product from coastal communities out, you’re
taking that name with them,” Styron said during the meeting.
only does Styron’s operation in Cedar Island cater to a separate
clientele than less expensive bagged oyster and shucked oyster markets
it’s also productive year-round, not just during the cool-weather
“ending-with-R” months most in eastern North Carolina consider oyster
methods offer advantages to watermen who can’t make a living harvesting
wild oysters. Wild stock is down to about 5 percent of what it was in
the early 1900s, Styron said. Innovations in oyster farming offer new
hope for those wanting to stay in the business.
fisheries are never going to be able to support the economy and support
the demand for oysters, so we had to find another way to grow oysters,”
THE BLUE ECONOMY
Harrison, a coastal economist with North Carolina Sea Grant and another
member of the panel, said a revitalized oyster industry in North
Carolina could be a boon to the state’s “blue economy,” which refers to
sustainable coastal industries such as seafood, tourism, maritime
transportation, boatbuilding and recreation. The blue economy
contributes about $1.8 billion in gross domestic product, or about 6
percent of the total GDP for coastal counties and provides 41,000 jobs,
or about 13 percent of coastal employment, she said.
restoration and aquaculture, they can certainly fit very neatly in this
seafood piece, but there’s actually a lot more to it,” Harrison said.
They also fit with tourism and recreation, which provide many more jobs
than seafood, she said.
of the jobs on the coast that are really dependent on our coastal
resources, our ocean resources, are tourism and rec,” she said, adding
that visitors often want to learn about the fishing heritage on the
also enhances the “natural capital base” that supports many coastal
activities, Harrison said, noting the involvement of many state,
federal and nonprofit partners, as well as the seafood industry. Oyster
restoration not only creates jobs, she said, “it also creates an
infrastructure for the seafood industry, for aquaculture, for the
tourism and recreation sectors.”
states, particularly Virginia, have shown that investment in oyster
restoration helps grow the economy, said Tom Looney, who serves with
the N.C. Economic Development Partnership and was also part of the
panel discussion. Market prices for oysters have gone up for these
states as production has increased, he said.
“They created a vibrant export market,” Looney said.
improves habitat for other species and that leads to increased
commercial fishing landings, Looney explained. A growing seafood
industry begets more coastal restoration.
have to protect that habitat to make sure the industry succeeds. I
believe the oyster is the ultimate clean tech,” Looney said.
Oyster Website Launched
N.C. Coastal Federation recently launched a website intended to connect
organizations, state agencies and universities that have a stake in
restoring and protecting North Carolina’s oysters.
is to serve as the state’s clearinghouse for information on oyster
habitat restoration, research, planning, education and outreach. The
website is also designed to function as a portal of information about
oysters and track the progress of implementing a statewide restoration
plan, The Oyster Restoration and Protection Plan for North Carolina: A
Blueprint for Action 2015-2020, provides stakeholders with direction
and guidance on restoration, management and economic development
strategies to benefit the environment and economy. The blueprint’s
goals and action plans are listed along with a stakeholder directory.
site also includes links to various studies, publications and resources
relevant to making North Carolina “the Napa Valley of Oysters,” a
description used to explain the potential for shellfish aquaculture and
growing conditions here. It also includes historical information on the
state’s oyster industry. Site visitors can sign up to receive news
updates by email.
article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. For more news, features, and
information about the coast, go to www.coastalreview.org.)