Coastal conservationists and shellfish growers are cheering new investments in the state’s oyster industry included in the state budget compromise.
The $22.34 billion spending plan announced Monday includes $1.03 million in one-time funding to build oyster sanctuaries in Pamlico Sound. Also, a $300,000, non-recurring, shellfish rehabilitation fund will go to build new oyster reefs all along the coast. The budget also includes $149,000, recurring, for two new positions at the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries to accelerate shellfish industry growth and increase shellfish production and recycling.
“The General Assembly’s new budget takes big steps toward making coastal North Carolina the Napa Valley of oysters,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. “This funding will help implement the state’s blueprint for restoring the oyster industry and help attract more federal money to restore our oyster beds.”
The budget also provides $100,000 to clean up abandoned crab pots in state waters.
Advocates say boosting the shellfish industry can benefit coastal communities by providing work for fishermen and marine contractors and improving water quality.
“In a few years, the success of these restoration efforts will be a huge economic gain for fishermen and tourism businesses along our coast,” said Jay Styron, president of the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association. “Oysters are one of the best economic development strategies we have for our coast, and it’s nice to see this investment by our lawmakers to help us carry it out in a timely way.”