Estuarine Benthic Mapping Program
Mapping the distribution of different bottom habitats is critical to effectively protect and manage estuarine resources. Because of this and to aid in facilitating shellfish harvest and aquaculture, the Division of Marine Fisheries maps and samples the benthic habitats within shellfish growing areas to determine habitat type, acreage and abundance of oysters, clams, scallops and submerged aquatic vegetation. To date, the division has mapped over 602,000 acres of the coastal estuarine waters from Little River in Brunswick County to the northern end of Roanoke and Croatan sounds in Dare County.
Estuarine benthic habitat types are delineated systematically using sounding poles and GPS coordinates along a map grid. The benthic habitat types are classified as soft, firm or hard; vegetated or non-vegetated; and with or without shell. Benthic habitat types are sampled for the presence of shellfish and submerged aquatic vegetation using tongs, rakes and meter squares. Sampling data include shellfish species counts, submerged aquatic vegetation species and density and other environmental data. Estuarine benthic habitat maps are created utilizing Geographical Information System. By collecting and utilizing the mapping and sampling data; estuarine benthic habitat resource maps are created which delineate benthic habitat boundary types.
An interactive map of shell bottom habitat produced by this program is located under North Carolina Coastal Habitats/Shell Bottom.
N.C. Fishery Nursery Areas
Habitat Mapping and Monitoring
Submerged aquatic vegetation mapping from:
Hard bottom mapping from:
Coastal wetlands mapping from: