Shell fishing restrictions impact coastal economy

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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) — Restrictions on shell fishing due to storm water runoff are beginning to impact the coastal economy.

For coastal communities like Morehead City, fishing is an important piece of the economy. So when restrictions are put in place, the whole community is affected.

Storm water runoff has forced the Division of Marine Fisheries to close waters to shell fishing from Morehead City to Onslow County.

The storm water from the recent rain pollutes the water, and makes shellfish that come from it unsafe to eat.

“Anything that’s on the ground, any type of fecal matter from animals or any leaks from septic tanks, things like that, whenever there’s a large rain that will wash into the water,”  said Patricia Smith from the Division of Marine Fisheries,

While it’s a necessary precaution, it means that shell fisherman either have to go further away to get their shellfish or stop working until the waters open back up.

Captain Jim’s Seafood owner Marc Smith said that has a negative impact on business.

“Local people like the local oysters,” said Smith, “and when they close the areas there’s just no local oysters available. And at times it may be closed for a week or two depending on the rain.”

While Smith is concerned for his own business, he said he’s more concerned for the local fisherman.

“They just aren’t able to work during the closures,” said Smith.

The waters have been closed since Monday and will continue to be closed until at least Friday.

The waters can’t open back up until they are tested and determined to be safe.

The Division of Marine Fisheries tested the waters in Bogue Sound and the straits Wednesday, and will continue to test until all the areas come back bacteria free.

It takes twenty-four hours for the results of the bacteria tests to come back after the DMF performs them.

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