The recently approved state budget includes significant funding to restore the state’s oyster fishery. These investments include funding for a new state water quality laboratory in Dare County, which will open up approximately 54,000 acres for potential shellfish planting and harvest. The new budget also includes funding for a shellfish pathologist — an important resource for the growing oyster industry. Funding for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund — the state’s most important source of funding for open space preservation — also received $4 million in new, non-recurring funds this year. And the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Crab Pot Recovery Project received another year of funding to continue in 2019. Continue to read for more details.

Northern Water Quality Lab- The new state budget provided $272,844 to the Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to reopen a northeastern water quality lab to test northern waters for bacteria and other ambient parameters. The funding will also restore two positions in the region. This lab will speed the water quality monitoring process necessary for both recreational waters and shellfish waters. The opening of the lab will also reopen approximately 54,000 acres of viable shellfishing waters that were administratively closed when budget cuts shuttered the previous lab in 2015.

Shellfish Pathologist- The General Assembly appropriated $124,000 to establish a shellfish pathologist position to be located at N.C. State University’s Center for Marine Sciences in Morehead City. The pathologist will test shellfish health to make sure that the organisms are healthy and thriving.

Clean Water Management Trust Fund- The Clean Water Management Trust Fund received a boost in funding with $4 million in non-recurring funds. This additional funding brings the total to $18.3 million in FY2018-19.

Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project- The Coastal Federation’s crab pot recovery project received $100,000 in state funds to continue the program into the next year. This funding will allow commercial fisherman to be hired to clean up lost fishing gear during a no crab potting period. Learn more here.

Habitat Enhancement– The Oyster Sanctuary and Cultch Planting Programs continues to receive state support, including $850,000 earmarked for oyster sanctuary construction in the Pamlico Sound. The state’s cultch planting program budget was reduced from $1.1 million to $402,000, with the savings used to fund the reopening of the lab, the shellfish pathologist and other water quality and oyster related programs.

Thank your local legislators for their continued support of oyster and water quality initiatives. Find your local legislator here.