Fishermen help rebuild oyster reef off NC coast

Reported by Claire Simms – bio |email

STUMP SOUND, NC (WECT) - Fishermen are getting some extra work this summer. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the North Carolina Coastal Federation is paying them to help "plant" oyster shells in several locations in Hyde, Carteret, Pender and New Hanover Counties.

"It's hard for any fishermen to survive now," explained fisherman John Craig.  "That's one reason why we're doing this.  Everybody's suffering."

Craig is one of 70 people chosen to work for the project.  He said getting paid $2.00 per bushel to plant oyster shells in Stump Sound should help him break even until shrimp season starts.

In order to live, oysters need a solid surface to which they can attach themselves.  Recycled shells provide an ideal habitat for the organisms to grow.

The new oyster reef sites will be closed for the next four years to promote oyster growth.  Ted Wilgis with the NC Coastal Federation said that will help these same fishermen down the road.

"It's a great project because they're building oyster habitat, which will create more oysters for them to harvest as well as the oyster habitat is important for things like flounder, crabs and shrimp, which people rely on for harvest and food,"  said Wilgis.

The project is a collaborative effort with the NC Coastal Federation, the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  The group received $5 million to reestablish the oyster reef.

Researchers from UNCW will track the new reef's progress, and Fishermen will continue their part of the project will continue through July 31, 2010.

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