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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Other Threats to Habitat

Marine Fisheries

 Other Threats to Habitat

8-point rule

 
 

Boating Activity

Habitats Affected:

SAV, wetlands

Impacts:

  • SAV can be physically damaged by boat propellers (recurrent damage and long recovery period), anchors, jet skis.
  • Sediment resuspension from boat wakes in shallow waters can reduce water clarity for SAV and erode wetland shorelines.

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Disease

Habitats Affected:

Shell bottom, SAV

Impacts:

  • Past occurrence of seagrass wasting disease caused extensive losses of SAV habitat.
  • Increased occurrence of oyster diseases has contributed to decline of shell bottom habitat and its lack of recovery.

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Introduced or Nuisance Species

Habitats Affected:

Water column, shell bottom, SAV, wetlands

Impacts:

  • Introduced species can compete with natives for space, light, and nutrients, and displace natives with species of lower value to native fish utilization. For example, Eurasian watermilfoil competes with native low salinity SAV plants in some areas of the coast.
  • Unintended effect of nuisance species control on nontarget species

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Marine Debris

Habitats Affected:

Water column, ocean hard bottom

Common Sources: 

Storm drains, accidental and intentional littering

Impacts:

  • Fish, reptiles, birds and mammals can become entangled in debris, leading to:
    • loss of mobility
    • increased mortality
    • greater risk of infection
  • Ingestion of debris by organisms can also have lethal or sublethal effects

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Natural Threats

Sea Level Rise

Habitats Affected:

Wetlands

Common Sources:

Natural event accelerated by global warming

Impacts:

  • As sea level rises, wetlands erode and “drown”, especially along steeply sloping shorelines or where inland migration of wetlands is restricted.
  • Rising sea level increases salinity upstream and alters distribution and composition of fish populations

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Storm Events

Habitats Affected:

Wetlands, water column, shell bottom

Common Sources:

Natural events, but negative effects are worse where pollutant sources occur on adjacent lands.

Impacts:

  • The combination of storm events and sea level rise causes erosion of wetlands at a rate of about 800 acres/yr in North Carolina.
  • Non-point runoff from storms can result in excessive loading of sediment and nutrients into the water column.
  • Sediment runoff can silt over oyster beds.
  • High nutrient loading from storm runoff can lower oxygen levels in the water, killing oysters and benthic organisms. 

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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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