Aquaculture hub to be built to help oyster & clam farmers
CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - North Carolina is quickly becoming a big name in shellfish growing and aquaculture, but experts say in an effort to expand the trade and meet the goal of being a $100 million industry by 2030, we must find a way to support those wading into oyster and clam farming.
With that goal in mind, the North Carolina Coastal Federation is hoping a new facility will pave the way toward clearing some of the obstacles growers face every time they head out on the water.
Waterfront properties don’t just offer nice views, but one in Carteret County could be the key to helping small oyster and clam growers reach new potential in their businesses.
“An aquaculture hub, in very simple terms, is an office for oyster and clam growers to work out of,” Ana Zivanovic-Nenadovic with the North Carolina Coastal Federation said.
Building a space that allows water access and storage space for growers sounds like a simple idea. However, even more than that, the space would help clear massive hurdles businesses face every time they head out to their leases.
“A typical day, you’d have a grower dragging or towing a boat to the boat ramp, launching that boat, hopefully finding parking, which is a challenge in the summer,” Chris Matteo with the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association explained.
Federal law requires all of this to be done within a certain timeframe.
“In summer, from the point at which an oyster leaves the water, you have 5 hours to get it into mechanical refrigeration, and that’s the first oyster you pull, so every other subsequent oyster is still under that 5-hour time window,” Matteo said.
Some growers must drive for more than an hour to reach that refrigeration.
“Small growers have a hard time filling very large orders because there is only so much work you can do on a small boat and there’s [only] so much you can do inside of that 5-hour time window,” Matteo said.
The goal of this aquaculture hub is to have enough space for growers to not only collaborate, but also store gear, and have a place to put their products in refrigeration on the waterfront.
“At this initial stage, we’re envisioning around 10 people being able to use it,” Zivanovic-Nenadovic said. “We’re still looking into the sizing [of] the area, but we’re hoping to be able to grow it later.”
So far, Carteret County has already approved the use of their property for the hub and the North Carolina Coastal Federation has been awarded $200,000 from The Golden LEAF Foundation to help start the building process.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation says it hopes to be able to start construction on the aquaculture hub by late spring or early summer of next year. Staff members hope the facility will be the first of several in the state.
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