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Proposed Legislation Would Boost NC’s Oyster Industry

Image of Jay Styron working with oysters
Baxter Miller
Bit & Grain

Some North Carolina lawmakers want to help the state make a name for itself in oyster farming.Currently, oyster aquaculture is a cottage industry. North Carolina residents can farm up to 10 acres of water. But a bill in the general assembly would allow out-of-state businesses to set up 300-acre oyster farms in public waterways.

David Snead leads the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina. The group advocates for conservationists and recreational fisherman. Snead said he loves seeing locally-harvested oysters on menus, but he thinks this legislation promises too much change too fast.

"I can see where they would want to grow the industry, and we want that opportunity for North Carolina fishermen. But 300 acres seems to be a lot," said Snead, who said he backs a more methodical sustainable growth plan. "You know, start to set aside a lot of different areas that have restrictions on access because of the leases, then, you know, we need to slow down and maybe take a look at doing this in some smaller steps."

Snead said it would be wise for lawmakers to first spell out where aquaculture operations can be set up so they don't interfere with public use.  He added that measures should limit destructive oyster harvesting practices, and the plan should have the teeth to hold growers responsible to clean up after themselves when they leave.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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