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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 35 Eastern Oyster SSR 2015

Marine Fisheries

Eastern Oysters

Eastern Oysters — 2015

Stock Status Concern – Historical long-term decline of oysters is likely caused by overharvest and habitat disturbances. Sampling data shows Dermo infection intensity levels have remained low in recent years however prevalence appears to be increasing. Commercial landings have shown some improvement over the last 10 years. Recreational landings are unknown. Oyster sanctuary projects are ongoing in Pamlico Sound

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2005-2014 – 590,180 lbs. of meat/$3,065,284

2014 Commercial Landings and Value – 727,043 lbs. of meat/$4,539,334

Average Recreational Landings 2005-2014 – Unknown

Status of Fishery Management Plan – A state Fishery Management Plan (FMP) was adopted in 2001 by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission. The management unit includes the Eastern oyster and its fisheries in all waters of coastal North Carolina. Amendment 1 was adopted in 2003 and changed one of the criteria for designation of hand harvest areas from waters ten feet deep to water less than six feet deep. Amendment 2 was adopted in 2008, highlights of management measures include: a 15 bushel harvest limit in Pamlico Sound and a 10 bushel harvest limit for all gears in designated areas around the sound, reducing the available harvest season, modifications to lease provisions, and expand oyster sanctuary construction efforts. Supplement A to Amendment 2 , adopted in 2010 raised the potential harvest limit in Pamlico Sound to 20 bushels and created a monitoring system for when to close mechanical harvest in that area. Amendment 3 adopted in 2013 created two new seed oyster management areas in Onslow County. The FMP is currently under its obligatory five year review and Amendment 4 is in development and scheduled for completion by 2017.

Research and Data Needs – Determine regional oyster abundance estimates and improve landings data for commercial and recreational harvest from both public and private bottom. Determine the effects of harvest on the suitability of habitat for oysters. Expand restoration efforts to improve recruitment, growth, and water quality function of oysters in both subtidal and intertidal areas.

2014 Regulations 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 2005-2014 – 2.30, 2014 – 2.92

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 Tina Moore at Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or 800-682-2632 or 252-808-8082.

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

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