Oyster Cultch Planting

Action 1: Incorporate coastal environmental restoration into the economic development strategy for North Carolina

A. Include coastal restoration in economic development plans and efforts for the state, coastal communities and coastal rural areas.

B. Define coastal restoration to include:

  1. Watershed restoration
  2. Wetland restoration
  3. Oyster habitat restoration
  4. Stormwater retrofits efforts
  5. Living shorelines projects

C. Streamline the approval process for environmental restoration, including:

  1. Update and revise wetland and oyster restoration permitting
  2. Accelerate permit approval process for living shoreline projects
  3. Revise commercial oyster bed/mariculture permit approval process
  4. Perform audit of North Carolina stormwater protection program to develop recommendations for decreasing costs and increasing effectiveness

D. Make oyster restoration part of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ legal mandate.

E. Designate a state agency to ensure that North Carolina is maximizing the use of available federal and other non-state funds for coastal restoration.

F. Make North Carolina economic development resources available for coastal restoration with an emphasis on:

  1. Competition for resources that drives job creation and cost-effectiveness
  2. Incentives for leveraging state funds with private and other non-state dollars
  3. Private sector participation
  4. Clear reporting requirements and performance measures, including job creation and economic impact

Action 2: Establish and maintain at least 500 acres of sanctuaries coastwide.

  • Select sites, determine appropriate size and structure, network and architecture; ensure the sites selected are representative of the status of the North Carolina oyster population.
  • Determine the most cost-effective and appropriate materials and methods to be used to build sanctuaries.
  • Develop cost estimates and obtain permits so that projects are shovel-ready. Work with DMF, regulatory agencies, private contractors, NGOs, research institutions, shellfish growers, harvesters and other stakeholders to implement the projects.
  • Identify needs, develop a plan, and implement long-term site management and monitoring to allow for adaptive management of sanctuary system.
  • Explore the use of living shorelines, closed areas and other sentinel site designations as possible oyster sanctuaries.

Action 3: Ensure that the state’s cultch planting program provides an acceptable return on investment.

A. Complete the funded study of program’s cost-effectiveness (both historically and in the future).

B. Place enough volume of material in the right locations each year to provide effective cultch planting sites for oyster spat settlement.

      1. Select sites, acreage, size, type, and amount of materials required.
      2. Determine appropriate type of materials and their supply chains. 
3. Establish purchasing agreements.
4. Develop and implement a plan to deploy material from strategic stockpile areas and/or large mobile stockpile barges.

C. Determine the most cost-effective strategies for placing materials.

D. Develop yearly cost estimates and secure funding.

E. Document ecosystem services provided by the cultch planting sites.

F. Identify measures of success and develop evaluation parameters for sites using alternate materials.

G. Determine appropriate management measures for harvest in cultch sites.

Action 4: Encourage the growth and prosperity of the oyster mariculture industry.

A. Determine the status and trends for mariculture operations in North Carolina and update annually.

B. Set annual and five-year goals for oyster harvest from leased bottoms.

C. Promote oyster mariculture by:

  1. Expedite siting of leases coupled with building mapping and surveying capabilities of DMF.
  2. Facilitate and streamline lease approval process.
  3. Determine acceptable SAV impacts.
  4. Cultivate disease resistant oysters.
  5. Manage for public health.
  6. Minimize public trust concerns.
  7. Assess, develop, and provide training needs and cost-share programs for growers.

    a. Encourage NRCS to provide cost-share programs for growers and public/private hatcheries.

D. Provide guidance and support efforts for the UNCW Shellfish Research Hatchery.

E. Adopt a management structure that enables private growers to operate profitably in North Carolina

F. Research environmental and economic benefits of oyster mariculture.

Action 5: Devise, implement, evaluate and annually update a five-year comprehensive goal for managing the oyster fishery on public trust bottoms.

A. Determine the status and trends for oyster harvest.

B. Set annual and five-year harvest goals from publicly available and managed growing areas from baseline of post-dermo.

C. Reflect revised management strategies in update to Oyster Fisheries Management Plan.

Action 6: Protect and improve water quality in priority shellfish growing areas.

A. Identify and prioritize the most critical coastal watersheds that determine water quality in prime oyster growing areas of N.C

  1. Maintain updated shellfish mapping.
  2. Maintain updated SAV mapping.

B. Document the status and trends of water quality in priority watersheds.

C. Establish water quality management plans.

  1. Devise Watershed Restoration Plans for priority watersheds with impaired waters as well as for priority watersheds with pristine water quality.

D. Implement watershed management plans.

  1. Partner to implement plans.
  2. Secure funding to implement watershed management plan recommendations.
  3. Establish measures of implementation success.
  4. Document and evaluate progress toward plan goals.
  5. Communicate priorities and lessons learned.

E. Reflect watershed management strategies in related planning and management efforts.

  1. Coastal Area Management Act land use plans
  2. Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan
  3. Coastal Habitat Protection Plan
  4. Funding guidance for state grant programs

F. Partner and secure funding from diverse granting and nongranting sources to implement, evaluate monitor and communicate progress.

 Action 7: Obtain adequate funding to implement the Blueprint.

A. Secure adequate annual appropriation to enable DMF to staff its core responsibilities related to oyster restoration.

  1. Maintain adequate staff and equipment to implement agreed-upon priorities.
  2. Devise simple procedures to facilitate the appropriate use of private contractors.

B. Obtain restoration funds from federal sources to leverage state and private funds.

C. Use state and federal economic development resources to fund restoration activities that enhance the coastal economy.

  1. Project and document employment provided by implementing restoration efforts.
  2. Document the long-term economic value of restoration activities.
  3. Integrate oyster restoration in the state’s economic development framework.

Action 8: Cultivate and organize the leadership and partnerships that are necessary to develop progressively refined, effective and efficient strategies for managing and restoring oyster habitats and fisheries in North Carolina

  • Organize and engage a steering committee and continue the work of the two regional workgroups to identify, select, monitor, implement and evaluate restoration strategies with key stakeholders.
  • Convene at least one steering committee meeting each year to coordinate the work of workgroups and other stakeholders.
  • Hold at least two regional workgroup meetings each year to guide restoration efforts.
  • Hold at least one technical workshop each year to encourage communication and partnership opportunities.
  • Communicate a strategic vision and plan, and share progress and lessons learned with stakeholders, decision-makers and the general public at one major public oyster summit every two years.
  • Work with the General Assembly to enact legislation that establishes oyster population restoration as a legislative mandate.

Action 9: Prepare and distribute an annual State of the North Carolina Oyster Report.

A. Record work accomplished, evaluate successes and failures and evolve blueprint based upon lessons learned.

B. Evaluate and refine research questions being studied to make sure management questions and needs are constantly evaluated, identified and prioritized.

      1. Develop or maintain a list of priority research questions and needs related to oyster restoration for funding organizations.
      2. Catalogue research studies taking place and completed in North Carolina and what management questions or needs these studies address.
      3. Make sure completed research results are communicated to appropriate decision-makers and disseminated to a wide audience.

C. Capture lessons learned from restoration projects and programs to inform future restoration efforts.

      1. Develop a best management practices or standard operating procedures manual for restoration activities. Update and revise as new information becomes available.
      2. Consider hosting the information in an online format that would allow restoration practitioners to see where certain techniques/materials would be recommended.

D. Develop and publicize tools that predict restoration success.

      1. Develop a more advanced model that predicts restoration/oyster growth and survival success.
      2. Establish long-term, efficient, consistent and strategic baseline database.
      3. Determine measures of success.

E. Publish updated links to shellfish maps.

F. Determine necessary budget to fund monitoring essential to evaluate the success of restoration efforts.

G. Establish oyster restoration website and populate it with historic and current data on oyster restoration activities, costs and benefits in North Carolina