MOREHEAD CITY — From what types of commercial seafood are best to eat to legal size limits of fish catch, sixth- and seventh-graders from two county middle schools and home-school got seafood savvy Friday during Education Day at the N.C. Seafood Festival.
Scientists and researchers from county marine science labs, as well as a commercial fisherman, set up at 16 stations on the Morehead City waterfront and under the Cooking with the Chefs tent. The group presented seafood and marine science programs to 260 students from Broad Creek Middle School, Down East Middle School and home-schooled middle school students.
The goal of the event was to expose students to the importance of the local seafood industry and the science behind it, according to Education Day coordinator Ken Riley, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Lab in Beaufort.
“We’re trying to show students where local seafood comes from, how it’s harvested and how science plays an important role in the process,” Mr. Riley said.
Chris Taylor with NOAA, who was assisting, added, “They’re learning about the importance of a healthy environment that supports a healthy seafood industry. You can’t have healthy seafood without a healthy environment.”
Greg Bolton, a research scientist with the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City, discussed the various species of fish that are important to the commercial and recreational fishing industries. He had several examples of fish for students to study. He also demonstrated the proper way to fillet fish.
BCMS sixth-grader Madison McCluskey asked, “Are there any sharks here?”
Mr. Bolton responded, “Yes, there are several species of sharks in our local waters and they play an important role in the ecosystem.”
Prior to talking to students, Mr. Bolton said he enjoyed interacting with students during Education Day.
“It’s wonderful. Everybody needs to know what’s going on in their neighborhood. A lot of kids don’t know about the seafood industry and the role it plays here,” he said.
NOAA scientist Todd Kellison, who was helping Mr. Bolton, added, “A lot of these fish are coastal species and this gives students an understanding of what is in our coastal waters.”
Zack Davis, an instructor at East Carteret High School who also commercial fishes, brought a shrimp trawler for students to check out while he talked about the importance of commercial fishing.
“How many of you have been on a trawler and been fishing?” he asked a group of students. A few hands shot up as he then talked about methods commercial fishermen use to catch fish and shellfish.
Dave Cerino, coordinator of the aquaculture technology program at Carteret Community College, taught on the variety of shellfish in local waters, such as clams. He also discussed the importance of aquaculture, which is growing and farming shellfish.
Other stations focused on offshore reefs and shipwrecks, the reasons for catch limits on fish species and how turtle excluder devices are used on shrimp trawl nets.
BCMS sixth-grader Ashton Kirkwood said he enjoyed visiting the various stations.
“It’s great. I didn’t know about some of these fish and I didn’t know about shrimp nets,” he said.
DEMS seventh-grader Nathanel Styron, who helps family members commercially fish, said it was interesting, although he already knew some of what was shared.
“I think it’s good they’re teaching about this so they can tell other generations about commercial fishing. It’s very important,” he said.
DEMS seventh-grade math and science teacher Shannon Mullins, too, said it is important for students to get the hands-on learning from scientists and fishermen.
“A lot of our students come from commercial fishing families and it’s important for them to see the science behind it and see the reasons for the rules and regulations (related to the fishing industry). This is giving them the opportunity to ask scientists directly and get answers I probably couldn’t give them in the classroom.”
BCMS sixth-grade teacher Laura Bischoff said she appreciates those who made the day possible for students.
“This is such an eye-opening experience for many of our students. This helps them see what’s important to our community and helps them make those connections. It helps them understand our fishing community and the importance of why we recycle to protect our coastal waters.”
Scientists that took part in the program were from the N.C. State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, NOAA, CCC and the N.C. Coastal Federation.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.