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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - NC Oyster Sanctuary Program

Marine Fisheries

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North Carolina's Oyster Sanctuary Program

oyster sanctuary

Sanctuaries are created by building reefs on previously viable oyster producing sites. Reefs are constructed with a combination of natural oyster shell and/or Class B rip-rap marl. These reefs attract native oyster larvae, as well as clams, juvenile finfish, crabs and marine organisms, which in turn attract larger fish, enhancing hook-and-line fishing. Harvest of oysters and the use of bottom disturbing gear are prohibited in the sanctuaries, allowing a brood stock of oysters to develop.

Each oyster produces millions of eggs annually that are carried by currents and tides to surrounding areas. By developing and protecting a brood stock, the availability of robust native oysters in adjacent waters increases.

Because bottom disturbing gear is prohibited on sanctuaries, the Division of Marine Fisheries seeks input on the best area to locate a site to minimize interactions with trawls, while maximizing the benefits of the site to oystermen and recreational fishermen.

Currently, there are ten existing oyster sanctuaries located in estuarine waters from Dare to Carteret counties, and two in the planning stages.

Map of Current and Future Sanctuaries

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

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