Aquaculture in North Carolina
The state of North Carolina has a robust marine aquaculture industry. It is the 15th most productive state in the United States and has a farm gate value of $60 million. Aquaculture in North Carolina is extremely diverse. There is still room for growth in the industry, despite its encouraging numbers. It consists mainly of freshwater species, including;
· Rainbow trout
· Hybrid striped bass
Experts believe oysters have the best potential for agribusiness development in the area. North Carolina has a vast coastline that is perfect for oyster production. When compared to Virginia, North Carolina has similar and even better natural resources. When the aquaculture in the two states were compared in 2005, their farm gate value was almost the same. It stood at about $250,000. In 2014, when compared, Virginia showed a farm gate value of $17.1 million. That of North Carolina was only $45,000. The two states have similar resources. Because of this, it is speculated that North Carolina has the potential to do better.
Benefits of Oysters
Oysters provide numerous economic, ecological, and social benefits. Their health is directly linked to the overall coastal ecosystem. Some of the benefits include;
They support a profitable commercial and recreational fishing endeavor. Fishing is a significant activity in North Carolina’s heritage. Most of the area depends on the ocean for food. Oyster reefs help the production of finfish and crabs in the region. These are valued at more than $62 million per year.
Oysters help to remove sediments, excess algae, and harmful pollutants from the water. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons a day. They also act as a link in the estuarine food web. This is by transferring the required nutrients from the surface to the ocean bed.
Oyster reefs provide a habitat for different species of aquatic life. These include both commercial and recreational fish species. A healthy oyster reef c support up to 300 organisms, including;
· Southern flounder
· Blue crabs
Benefits of Shellfish Aquaculture
Aquaculture has many benefits. Farming shellfish is beneficial to the farmer and the ecosystem. Some of the advantages of shellfish aquaculture include;
1. Aquaculture creates jobs and economic opportunities for coastal communities. People can get jobs to grow, maintain, harvest, and sell shellfish. It allows people to get involved and earn a living.
2. It produces high-quality seafood. The seafood is locally sourced and hence healthy. No chemicals go into growing the shellfish.
3. Shellfish are filter feeders, and hence clean the water. By eating the contaminants, shellfish improve the quality of the water they are in.
4. The farms attract and provide habitat for sea life.
The Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea Virginica)
This is also called the Atlantic Oyster. It is native to eastern North and South America. The Eastern oyster is significant to its ecosystem. It is a filter feeder, which means it cleans the water around it. The oyster sucks in water and separates the plankton and detritus to feed on. It then spits back out the water. A single oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water in 24 hours.
The species is a key structural element in its environment. It is a foundation species in a lot of ecosystems. They create a hard substrate that is used for habitat and attachment. Oyster beds attract huge numbers of predators looking for food. Eastern oysters can make tiny pearls around particles that go in the shell. The pearls are too small to generate monetary value.
North Carolina Sea Grant
This is an educational institution that focuses on coastal communities and aquaculture. The institution provides unbiased, science-based information. They are involved in research, outreach, and education programs. These are focused on enhancing knowledge in the aquaculture industry. Some of the ways that the institution is involved in marine projects are;
· Minimizing user conflict
· Efficient siting and leasing
· Public awareness
· Genetic improvement and strain development
· Disease monitoring
· Increasing production efficiencies
· Market expansion
How Can I Get Involved?
There are a number of ways in which people can immerse themselves in the industry. The mainstream ways include becoming growers and sellers. Other ways to get involved include;
1. Get involved with organizations
There are numerous organizations that are involved in the aquaculture business. You can look at their publications, gain knowledge and build your network. Some great examples in North Carolina include;
· Sea Grant North Carolina
· North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association
· Carolina State University
· East Coast Shellfish Growers
· North Carolina Coastal Federation
2. Go to conferences, meetings, and workshops
Attending events that are organized for the purpose of aquaculture is a great idea. You will find discussions and resources with all the information you need. Workshops tend to teach those interested in the industry. They also give other insider secrets to the industry. You will also be able to build your network and gain valuable experiences.
You can work with people you would like to learn from. Volunteering allows people to immerse themselves deep into what makes the industry work. You can gain experience with growing oysters, maintaining, and harvesting them.
Shellfish aquaculture has received great interest in recent years. It is a great chance at agribusiness development in North Carolina. Various organizations have come together to invest in the industry. This has allowed growing shellfish to gain some popularity. The eastern oyster is a significant commercial species. It is served in high-end and luxurious hotels as a delicacy. This has allowed growers the chance to want to make them better. Oyster growers aim at achieving consistency in shape and flavor. This will allow them to sell as a distinct item on the menu.
Growing oysters is a tedious process. It takes between 12 and 16 months for an oyster to grow fully. This period is characterized by a lot of factors. There is the cleaning and changing nets, moving the oysters, and taking great care of them. However, if farmed well, they can be extremely delicious.