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Oyster Restoration Brings Benefits to N.C. Environment, Economy



Brian Efland, North Carolina Sea Grant, 252/222-6314,

Posted April 23, 2010. UPDATED June 28, 2010 with Coastwatch story links.

Dredge workers in Hatteras and quarry workers in New Bern are benefiting from the oyster restoration project. Photo credit: Ben Young Landis/NCSG (CLICK FOR LARGER FILE)

Pamlico Sound's economy and ecosystems are getting a much-needed boost this year, courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More than 130 jobs are being created for contractors, dredge workers, commercial fishermen, caterers and many other coastal residents — all from a $5 million Recovery Act grant to restore 49 acres of oyster reefs in local waters.

Read the Coastwatch feature article about the project and watch YouTube videos from the field sites.

Officials from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) toured the Hatteras component of the project on April 19, as part of a nationwide Earth Week celebration.

But the scientific studies that helped determine the optimal locations for these new oyster reefs took place years earlier, including research enabled by the N.C. Fishery Resource Grant (FRG) program, which is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly and administered by North Carolina Sea Grant.

These studies focused on questions surrounding oyster populations and were conducted by researchers and fishermen. Now, the findings are being used to inform this federal stimulus project, awarded to the North Carolina Coastal Federation and their many partners.

Fishermen are being paid $2 a bushel to plant 41,000 bushels of oyster shell cultch off Cedar Island. Photo credit: Ben Young Landis/NCSG (CLICK FOR LARGER FILE)

Ecosystem and economic benefits are expected. The Recovery Act project hires local workers and commercial fishermen to create artificial reefs out of limestone rock and old oyster shell. The hard rock and shell substrate will nurture new oyster colonies, creating crucial habitat for baitfish and gamefish, removing excess nutrients out of local waters, and providing bountiful future harvests for working watermen.

Watch NC State's David Eggleston explain the water-cleansing ability of oysters (YouTube)

Since the mid-1990s, the FRG program has sought new solutions to North Carolina's fisheries issues. FRG researchers study a variety of topics, such as preventing longline interactions with pilot whales; excluding turtles from summer flounder trawls; culturing local saltwater pearls; and creating community supported fisheries programs.

As for the federal stimulus project, North Carolina Sea Grant will work with the N.C. Coastal Federation to evaluate the economic benefits of the restored oyster reefs. Over the coming year, Sea Grant enterprise development specialist Brian Efland will help study recreational fishing activity at these reefs through aerial fly-bys and dockside surveys.

"We're going to see how the fishing economy improves with this stimulus project," Efland says. "I'm excited to talk with all the local folks and visitors and hear what they think of these new oyster reefs."

For more information about the N.C. Fishery Resource Grant (FRG) program, visit online:

Read the NOAA press release on the April 19 Hatteras press event online at: Additional photos from the Hatteras event are available from NOAA at:

For additional information, contact Christine Miller of the NC Coastal Federation, 252/393-8185,, or Kim Amendola of NOAA, 727/551-5707,

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Bushels of oyster shell in Cedar Island await recycling as foundations for future oyster reefs. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries helped recruit fishermen to plant the shell material. Photo credit: Ben Young Landis/NCSG (CLICK FOR LARGER FILE) A barge off of Hatteras Island plants New Bern limestone to create future oyster reefs. Stevens Towing, partly based in Edenton, was able to activate 14 furloughed workers with project funding. Photo credit: Ben Young Landis/NCSG (CLICK FOR LARGER FILE) L-R: David "Diamond" Foley, Todd Miller, Darren Burrus, Mike Clinton and Randy Fagley. Miller is executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, speaking on April 19 aboard the Miss Hatteras. The others are Cape Dredging employees working on the Hatteras barge. Photo credit: Ben Young Landis/NCSG (CLICK FOR LARGER FILE)


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