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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Habitat Enhancement Home

Marine Fisheries

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Artificial Reefs Oyster Shell
Recycling
Oyster Sanctuaries Shellfish
Rehabilitation

Habitat Enhancement Programs

Enhancement programs aim to promote sustainable fisheries through the creation of habitat. DMF often creates oyster reefs to attract the web of organisms that depend on this habitat. 

Artificial Reef Program 

The artificial reef program creates and monitors artificial reefs in North Carolina. Artificial reefs attract fish and shellfish and can be made from natural and/or man-made materials. Artificial reefs are good fishing and diving locations. Often fish begin to colonize a reef hours after it is put in the water. 

Oyster Sanctuary Program

Oyster sanctuaries are designated areas where oyster reefs are built and protected from harvest. These areas act as brood stock to seed North Carolina's coastal waters with young oysters for harvest. These areas also double as artificial reefs popular with fishermen for the fish they attract. 

Oyster Shell Recycling

If you shuck it, don't chuck it. Recycled oyster shells are added back to the environment to create new habitat for baby oysters to colonize. Recycled shells are sometimes added to existing reefs in need of new shells and sometimes added to areas without any oysters. The reefs that are created provide habitat for juvenile and adult fish as well as improve water quality. 

Shellfish Lease and Franchise Program

N.C. aquaculture: grow 'yer own! DMF rents bottom space to fishermen to farm oysters, clams and mussels. This form of Aquaculture creates shellbottom habitat for fish and crustaceans to utilize while reducing the stress of fishing on wild oyster reefs and shellfish populations. 

Shellfish Rehabilitation Program

Cultch (dead oyster shells) is added back to the environment creating the preferred habitat for baby oysters to attach and grow. These planted reefs grow oysters in suitable areas where reefs did not previously exist. Once the oysters on these reefs reach a harvestable size fishermen may come and collect the oysters. 

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

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