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Efforts to restore an Onslow County river receive global recognition

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 7:15 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - One eastern North Carolina community is receiving national recognition for its wildlife preservation efforts.

The New River Oyster Highway, a chain of living oyster reefs, was recently added to a map designed by national mapmaker Captain Segull Fishing Charts.

The highway is part of ongoing efforts to restore the health of the New River, which began in the late 1990s.

Habitat protection experts with the city say for years the river had been uninhabitable.

Now, with years of cleaning efforts - millions of oysters are able to filter 15 gallons of water for pollutants every day, the river has replenished its surplus of red and black drum fish as well as blue crab.

Habitat protection experts explained how they used man-made oyster patty’s to help protect the oysters

“The baby oysters are microscopic they’re very small. This gives them all the nooks and crannies that they need to hide from the larger predators,” said Jacksonville stormwater manager Pat Donovan-Brandenburg.

Brandenburg explained these oysters surviving in the wild is essential for the continued progress in replenishing the quality of the New River.

Water experts say the revitalization process also helps bring back a number of other benefits to the community.

“The recreational commercial benefits what we’ve seen is an increase in the local fishermen the amount of crab pots they’ve added to the river it’s their livelihood you have people that come and they live and die by this river, some of these fishermen, but then you’re also bringing in some of your raptor species like the osprey as they can use those fish and stuff as a food source,” said water quality technician Aaron Houran.

Jacksonville habitat protection experts say the next phase of the revitalization project over the next year will expand 9 of the 12 oyster reefs along the New River from ½ acre to an acre in size.

Jacksonville habitat protection says this was made possible through grant funding, donations, and state and regional marine and wildlife partnerships.

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