Eastern Oysters - 2013
Stock Status - Concern - Long-term decline caused by excessive harvest and habitat disturbances. Sampling data shows Dermo has declined in recent years and commercial landings have shown marked improvement over the last 10 years. 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 2003-2012 – 521,712 lbs. of meat/$2,586,421
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 440,063 lbs. of meat/$2,906,267
Average Recreational Landings 2003-2012 – 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 2 was adopted 26 June 2008. Supplement A to Amendment 2 was adopted 4 November 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. Amendment 3 to designate new seed oyster management areas is scheduled to be approved in November 2013. The five-year review is scheduled to begin in 2013.
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 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.
2012 Minimum Size Limit – 3-inch shell length
Harvest Season – Open season October 15 through March 31, the Division of Marine Fisheries director may impose restrictions on days of the week harvesting will be allowed, areas, means and methods, time period, quantity, and size.
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 2003–2012 – 2.14, 2012 – 2.98
Habits and 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, please contact Craig Hardy at Craig.Hardy@ncdenr.gov or 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8046.