State agencies work to restore oyster populations on Pamlico Sound

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 8:16 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT, N.C. (WITN) - Environmental groups here in the East are helping preserve the coast with a big boost from state money.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries are building an oyster sanctuary in the Pamlico Sound.

Phase one of the three-phase construction started in 2021. Phase two is projected to finish in July.

Experts say the construction of man-made reefs will help revive the oyster population along the coast as well as the underwater community that depends on them.

The Division of Marine Fisheries says 18,000 tons of rock and sediment will be used to complete the project.

“We want to put these in places where they’re going to draw oysters. They’re going to grow, mature, and spawn. And they’re going to provide oysters to the rest of the Pamlico Sound,” Jordan Bynum with the Division of Marine Fisheries said.

Division of Marine Fisheries experts say that over the last 100 years, oysters, which experts say are one of the ocean’s best natural water filters, have become scarce due to overharvesting.

Sanctuaries not only restore the oysters, but also revive the underwater ecosystems.

“One of the best things about the oyster sanctuaries. They’re not only a habitat but they’re also a very good fishery,” Jacob Boyd with the Division of Marine Fisheries said.

Oyster reefs provide a habitat for up to 300 species of fish and invertebrates. The reefs also help improve water quality tremendously. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.

Sen. Norman Sanderson said $1 million from the 2021 state budget was used to develop these sanctuaries.

“I think it’s it’s good there’s been several $1,000,000 in this project since its beginning about eight years ago when we first started taking a hard look at his potential for North Carolina,” Sanderson said.

The Coastal Federation, in partnership with the Division of Marine Fisheries and Steven’s Towing, has built 110 acres of oyster sanctuaries.

These acres contribute to the division’s total of 400 acres of the sanctuary. The federation and the Division of Marine Fisheries have a goal of building another 100 acres for a total of 500 acres of oyster sanctuaries by 2025.

Phase three of construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

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