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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 35 Eastern Oyster SSR 2012

Marine Fisheries

Eastern Oysters

Eastern Oysters - 2012

Stock Status - Concern - Long-term decline caused by over harvesting and habitat disturbances. Sampling data shows Dermo has declined in recent years and commercial landings have shown marked improvement. Recreational landings are unknown. The Oyster Sanctuary Program has increased the biomass of oysters in and around the Pamlico Sound area.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2002-2011 – 502,076 lbs. of meat/$2,394,859

2011 Commercial Landings and Value – 800,453 lbs. of meat/$4,486,236

Average Recreational Landings 2002-2011 - Unknown

Status of Fisheries Management Plan - A state Fishery Management Plan (FMP) was adopted August 2001 by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission. Recommendations are currently being implemented. The FMP was amended in 2003 to change the criteria for mechanical harvest methods only. Amendment II was adopted June 26, 2008. Supplement A to Amendment II was adopted November 4, 2010 establishing a trigger to close oyster dredging when legal-size oysters decline to 26% of the live catch in an area and setting harvest limits for dredges at an amount up to 20 bushels per fishing operation.

Research and Data Needs - Habitat size and location; oyster density within habitat; fishing mortality and substrate disturbance caused by different harvest techniques; Catch-Per-Unit-Effort (CPUE) data; parasite: life history, means of transmission, and possible control methods; effects of pollutants; effects of bottom disturbing fishing gear; accurate landing data for commercial and recreational harvest from public and private bottom.

Current Minimum Size Limit – 3-inch shell length

Harvest Season - Open season October 15 through March 31, DMF director may impose any or all of the following restrictions:

  • Specify days of the week harvesting will be allowed.
  • Specify areas.
  • Specify means and methods, which may be employed in the taking.
  • Specify the time period.
  • Specify the quantity, but shall not exceed possession of more than 50 bushels.
  • Specify the minimum size limit by shell length, but not less than 2 ½ inches.


Size and Age at Maturity - Oyster may begin spawning 4-12 weeks after settlement; size is highly variable at that age

Historical and Current Maximum Age - 40 years old/unknown

Juvenile Abundance Indices Average 2002-2011 - 2.10, 2011 - 2.03
(Spat fall information on cultch planting sites available on request)

Habits/Habitats - Oysters are bivalve mollusks residing in intertidal or subtidal estuarine environments. A relatively clean firm substrate where water circulation provides sufficient food is necessary for oysters to attach, survive and grow to market size (3 inches). Optimal salinity and temperature ranges are 12 to 25 ppt. and 10 to 16 degrees C (50 to 79 degrees F) respectively. Spawning is triggered by increases in temperature (> 20 degrees C), and salinity (>10 ppt.) and occurs in North Carolina from May through September.

For more information, call Clay Caroon at 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8058.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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