The ‘Napa Valley’ of oysters

With millions of acres of coastal waters, North Carolina recognizes the importance of shellfish to its economy, cultural heritage and environmental health – and it’s well on its way to becoming the ‘Napa Valley’ of oysters. The state has just become the first in the Southeast and the sixth in the nation to launch a local Shellfish Initiative.

The state Shellfish Initiative is modeled after the National Shellfish Initiative, a program led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to demonstrate the social, economic, and environmental importance of shellfish. NOAA partners with shellfish farmers and restoration organizations with the goal to increase populations of shellfish in our nation’s coastal waters.

Along with NOAA, initiative partners include the North Carolina Coastal Federation (a member of Restore America’s Estuaries), North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, and North Carolina Sea Grant.

The coastal state prioritizes four goals in this Initiative: job creation, protection of water quality, protection of shellfish health, and sustainable management.

“Shellfish are the best indicators of the health of our coastal environment and they can help grow our coastal economy in ways that are sustainable for both residents and the natural environment,” says Todd Miller, director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

It’s a smart decision – for every $1 invested in oyster restoration activities, North Carolina receives $4.05 in benefits. This Initiative will also safeguard industry growth in this region – just 1 acre of oyster reef can provide habitat for 1.5 tons of seafood each year.

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan says, “Passionate voices fill the discussion around this industry because it’s an integral part of our culture, our economy and the protection and the enhancement of our natural resources.”

Watch the official announcement of the Shellfish Initiative here.

Authors are Danielle Herman, Logan Prochaska and Samantha Ruark at the North Carolina Coastal Federation.