Sens. Cook, Brown, Sanderson File Legislation Enhancing NC Shellfish Industry | Eastern North Carolina Now

Continuing further development of the State’s growing shellfish industry, Senator Bill Cook (R-District 1), Senator Harry Brown (R-District 6), and Senator Norman W. Sanderson (R-District 2) filed SB 738 (Support Shellfish Industry) in the North Carolina Senate yesterday, Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Press Release:

    Raleigh, N.C.     Continuing further development of the State's growing shellfish industry, Senator Bill Cook (R-District 1), Senator Harry Brown (R-District 6), and Senator Norman W. Sanderson (R-District 2) filed SB 738 (Support Shellfish Industry) in the North Carolina Senate yesterday, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

    Recognizing the commercial and ecological values of the oysters, the N.C. General Assembly since 2015 has enacted several pro-growth provisions and earmarked special budget appropriations to enhance the State's ability to plant cultch, to fund sanctuary development and to expand the State's oyster industry. Due to these efforts, the farm gate value of oyster mariculture has already tripled - approximately $1.05M was produced in 2015 - and $3.90M was produced last year.

    In 2017, 72 lease applications were submitted to the State with 52 leases granted. This shows a more than two-fold increase in interest in shellfish farming compared to the past six years when an average of 28 lease applications were submitted per year. As of April 2018, the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) had received 50 shellfish lease applications to-date. In comparison, 11 applications were submitted for the entire year of 2015.

    Additionally, in 2017, the N.C. General Assembly charged the University of North Carolina Policy Collaboratory with developing a State Mariculture Plan. The Shellfish Mariculture Advisory Committee (SMAC), a team of State and regional experts, was convened to craft elements of the plan. Responding to feedback from SMAC, the legislation includes several key initiatives to revitalize, and jump-start the shellfish industry in North Carolina. The bill accomplishes the following, but not limited to:

  • Clarifies lease production by requiring at least 10 bushels of shellfish per acre. This provision will likely motivate existing leaseholders, especially existing bottom lease holders, to bolster their production and maximize the use of available public trust resources. The industry standard for most producers is at least 150-200K oysters annually per acre, which equates to approximately around 500-670 bushels per acre.
  • Removes the State residency requirement and lifts the acreage limitation to 300 acres for shellfish cultivation leases in coastal fishing waters north of the Core Sound.
  • Establishes a Shellfish Cultivation Lease Review Committee to speed appeals of decisions regarding shellfish cultivation leases.
  • Authorizes Floating Upweller Systems in marinas and off docks in prohibited water. This is allowed in Virginia, Maryland and other States currently. Nursery systems for seed shellfish are called upwellers. And upwellers pump water up through small silos to feed seed shellfish (from 1-2 mm to 25 mm for oysters).
  • Establishes Shellfish Aquaculture Enterprise Areas - this will allow the State to adopt rules to facilitate shellfish aquaculture opportunities through advanced siting and preapprovals from relevant federal and State agencies.
  • Tasks the University's North Carolina Policy Collaboratory to study the impact of oyster restoration and shellfish mariculture on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Pamlico Sound.

    "Oysters are vital to North Carolina's coastal ecosystem and economy. They filter water, provide food for humans, and create reefs that build homes for more fish. We have the second largest estuary system in the United States and the largest contained in one State," said Cook, Brown and Sanderson. "With our acres of pristine waters, and a large and growing interest in cultivated oysters, the potential for the industry in the State is huge. Our goal is for North Carolina to become the 'Napa Valley' of oysters and to become a $100 million dollar industry in 10 years. A single adult oyster can also filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water a day - thus our waters will be cleaner and our economy will grow."

  • Contact: Jordan Hennessy

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