June 25, 2018
TO THE EDITOR:
North Carolina has the potential to be a major shellfish producer: it has an abundant coastline, favorable conditions, and strong fishing communities. However, unnecessary restrictions at the state level are holding it back. Legislation in the General Assembly will change that, and help North Carolina realize its full potential.
The Support Shellfish Industry Act aims to increase opportunity for North Carolina’s fishermen and businesses by expanding its shellfish leasing program. Currently, shellfish leases are capped at 50 acres. The bill would raise that number to 200 acres in Pamlico Sound, while keeping the limit the same in the rest of the state.
For comparison, Virginia and Maryland both allow shellfish growers to lease up to 2,000 acres. North Carolina’s current rules make it regionally uncompetitive, and put our fishermen at an economic disadvantage.
While the bill would benefit our state’s economy, it will also benefit our state’s environment. Oysters are filter feeders, absorbing nutrients and cleaning the surrounding waters. They are one of the few farm raised seafoods that benefit their ecosystem, making the ocean more enjoyable for not only fishermen, but also North Carolina residents as a whole.
The bill also requires that leaseholders must be North Carolina businesses with North Carolina fishing licenses, ensuring that North Carolina residents are its main beneficiaries.
The Support Shellfish Industry Act is the first step in putting more fishermen on the water and making North Carolina’s seafood industry more competitive.