Oysters in the Pamlico Sound are getting a big boost from a new project that will create five acres of new oyster habitat. The Long Shoal Oyster Sanctuary is one of 12 oyster sanctuaries scattered around Pamlico Sound. The Navy is funding the project in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is designing and building the reef.
“Many people don’t realize the role that the military plays in conservation across North Carolina,” said Aaron McCall, who is leading The Nature Conservancy’s work on the project. “The military has helped to protect lands across the state – most recently near the Dare County Bombing Range. This oyster reef project takes that collaboration offshore. Creating new reefs will increase the number of oysters in the sound. They will also improve water quality and provide valuable habitat for other fishes.”
Oysters were once plentiful in North Carolina waters. Native Americans relied on them for food. Archeologists found mounds of shells, called middens, which were left behind by these early residents. Unsustainable harvesting, development and disease have reduced oysters to less than 10 percent of their historic range.
“The Navy shares the passion many Americans feel for our ocean environment,” said Mr. Joseph W. Murphy, deputy chief of staff for Fleet installations and Environmental Readiness, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, "The Navy has been operating and training off the eastern United States for more than two centuries taking great care to protect the environment. We have done so in order to maintain our readiness to conduct safe, effective and sustained operations at sea -- operations that protect American citizens, the American homeland and American commerce around the globe.”
The oyster reefs will be created from 800 concrete reef balls – structures placed across the sound floor. Within a few months, young oysters (called spat) begin to colonize the balls.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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