Oyster 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.
Oysters 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 their chops.
Community 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.
Senators 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.
“This 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.
Sanderson 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 N.C. Coastal Federation recently launched a website that connects organizations, state agencies, and universities involved in restoring North Carolina’s oysters. North Carolina Oysters will serve as the state’s clearinghouse for information on oyster habitat restoration, research, planning, education and outreach.
The website will also track the progress of implementing the statewide restoration plan.
That 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.