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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 35 Eastern Oyster SSR 2016

Marine Fisheries

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Eastern Oysters

Eastern Oysters — 2016

Stock Status Concern – Historical long-term decline of oysters is likely caused by overharvest and habitat disturbances. Sampling data show 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 2006-2015 – 615,561 lbs. of meat/$3,307,348

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 631,087 lbs. of meat/$3,898,358

Average Recreational Landings 2006-2015 – Not available

Status of Fishery Management Plan – A state Fishery Management Plan (FMP) was adopted in 2001 by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission. 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. Amendment 4 is in development and scheduled for completion by 2017. Draft preferred management options under Amendment 4 include, continue the monitoring system for when to close mechanical harvest in an area, reduce the culling tolerance from 10 to five percent, reduce the daily harvest limit for holders of the Shellfish License, and modifications to shellfish lease provisions.

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.

2015 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

Maximum Age – 40 years old

Juvenile Abundance Indices Average 2006-2015 (average number of spat across all sampling locations) Spatfall Survey – 2.38, 2015 – 1.86

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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