Wanted: New Ideas!
Don't miss the latest issue of Coastwatch magazine
Back to News & Events
Fish House Inventory Revisited
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Posted Friday, Aug. 31, 2012
North Carolina Sea Grant-funded researchers recently updated an analysis of fish houses in the state. This report, completed five years after the initial study, was co-authored by cultural anthropologist Barbara Garrity-Blake and Barry Nash, Sea Grant seafood technology and marketing specialist.
“This inventory shows North Carolina lost 36 percent of its fish houses since 2000. Among processors still in business, 67 percent of those surveyed reported the demand for local seafood had increased,” Nash says. “What remains unknown is if a one-third reduction in the state’s seafood packing capacity represents a stabilization of the industry or a loss of critical production at a time when the demand for local seafood is growing stronger. Research is now underway to address this question.”
Garrity-Blake and Nash defined a fish house as a facility that packs North Carolina wild-caught finfish and shellfish mainly for wholesale distribution. As of late 2011, they found 83 such businesses in operation.
Their report states that the state lost nine fish houses between 2006 and 2011. However, the current loss is at a slower rate compared to what they found between 2001 and 2006.
Imported seafood, stricter fisheries regulations and insufficient labor were common reasons listed for fish house closures. Current owners cited a stronger demand for local seafood, local seafood educational initiatives — Brunswick Catch, Carteret Catch, Ocracoke Fresh and Outer Banks Catch — and property tax breaks for waterfront fish houses as elements that improved their businesses’ financial health during the past five years.
According to Garrity-Blake, the slowdown in closures should be understood in the context of the economy and real estate market. The first inventory occurred at the height of the property boom in coastal North Carolina when coastal parcels were selling at a premium.
“This follow-up inventory took place after the housing ‘crash’ that resulted in lower property values and a flat real estate market,” Garrity-Blake adds. “We predict that a rise in housing values will likely be accompanied by a rise in waterfront fish house closures, sales and conversions to residential property.”
The original study was included in deliberations of the N.C. Waterfront Access Study Committee, or WASC, that examined the loss of working waterfront and public access points along the coast. WASC was established by the N.C. General Assembly and administered by Sea Grant.
Legislators responded to several of the panel’s recommendations, including creating a $20- million Waterfront Access and Marine Industry fund and establishing provisions for “present-use” value for property tax assessments for waterfront fishing-related businesses.
The updated inventory will inform research at East Carolina University — funded by the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center — that is examining ways to distribute more local seafood within the state.
Data on market strategies and pressures affecting the industry should be of interest to state and federal agencies, as well as to industry members, local foods organizations and coastal community development initiatives, Garrity-Blake notes.
For the full report, visit www.ncseagrant.org/s/fhouse-2012.
North Carolina Sea Grant: Your link to research and resources for a healthier coast
For a list of all Sea Grant funded projects, leave fields blank and select search. Specify part of a title, a researcher's name and/or select a category from the from the dropdown menu.