North Carolina's Coastal Habitat Protection Plan recognizes six habitats crucial to coastal fishery species. These six habitats occur within an area covering 2.5 million acres of water and coastal wetlands, including the largest estuarine system of any coastal state on the eastern seaboard. These habitats represent areas where coastal fishery species forage, seek refuge, grow, or spawn.
What's the Problem?
As a whole, North Carolina's estuarine and coastal waters are showing signs of habitat degradation and loss (lack of recovery of certain fishery species despite reduced harvest, increasing shellfish harvest closures in Outstanding Resource Waters, large number of impaired waters, frequent fish kills, and negative changes in ecosystem structure).
Fish Habitats are Interdependent
Often fish use multiple habitats over their lifetime. In fact some fish use multiple habitats in a single day, and its not too hard to imagine a fish using all these habitats in the same day. This mobility between habitats that fish demonstrate means that to protect North Carolina's fishery resources we cannot simply protect one habitat. We must protect them all.
More than Fish
Not only are coastal fisheries threatened, but also coastal economies built around a high quality natural environment. Timely action is required because preventing a problem is often much less costly than fixing one.