New bill aims to expand shellfish industry in eastern NC

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A new state bill plans to expand the shellfish industry along the Crystal Coast.

One of the provisions in Senate Bill 648 would create a pilot project on the Pamlico Sound. It would open up three large-scale oystering plants along public trust waters.

Supporters of the bill say it could even bring a thousand new jobs to the East.

“To me, it’s a wonderful opportunity for eastern North Carolina,” said Republican Senator Norman Sanderson. “Our goal is to make this a 100 million dollar a year industry. We have all of the necessary ingredients to make this work.”

With the help of the bipartisan bill, Sanderson believes North Carolina has the potential to harvest around 50 million oysters by the end of 2020.

“It’s not easy work, it’s very hard work but I think it can be very profitable,” he said.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City is in charge of the initiative.

They are working to find safe spots along with the sound where the three new locations will go. These locations must be safe for marine habitat, Crystal Coast residents and away from current fishing productions.

“I think you could really expand the industry,” said Steve Murphey, Director of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries. “Right now, the agriculture industry is responsible for about half of the oyster production in North Carolina – this is just the natural next step in that.” 

Not only would the bill expands jobs but it would also keep the commodity local.

“If fishing’s not good, if shrimping is not good, they have something they can fall back on,” said Sen. Sanderson (R).

The bill would also set up production requirements and insurance opportunities for oystering companies.

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