North Carolina is investing in the oyster industry and hoping for big results. The Oyster industry has been wildly successful in Virginia, and if done properly in North Carolina, promises to bring jobs, boost tourism and clean the environment.
According to the N.C. Sound Economic Development Summit hosted by the N.C. Coastal Federation in March, 2017, the oyster industry is doubling every five years in the United States. Not only is the demand for oysters increasing in restaurants, but oysters are good for the environment as well. They are natural filters of water in their habitat, improving water quality. One acre of oyster reef can clean 24 million gallons a day of water (equivalent to 36 olympic size pools). Oysters also protect shorelines from erosion and provide habitat for coastal wildlife.
Virginia’s oyster industry has seen a farm-gate value growth of almost $17 million from 2004 to 2014, and North Carolina wants to bring that kind of growth to its economy. Currently, North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries (“DMF”) manages an oyster sanctuary program and provides shellfish leasing, but further studies and improvements are needed to get the industry going. The current budget from the N.C. Senate proposes an additional $1 million for oyster sanctuaries, $1.1 million in 2017 for cultch planting, and $150,000 to fund a study related to the shellfish industry. Governor Roy Cooper’s proposed budget also includes similar allocations for the oyster industry.