New oyster regulations could boost local economy

Reported by Gavin Johnson - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The feds are getting tougher on oysters that come from Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.  Some say the new regulations will help boost the oyster industry in our area.

Steve Quill has been answering phones at Motts Channel in Wrightsville Beach non-stop since oyster season began last week.  He said there's a huge demand for them every year, whether they're local stump oysters or Topsail oysters.

Their demand could increase in the next few years as the FDA tries to cut back on food poisoning.  Beginning in 2011, the FDA will no longer allow fresh, live oysters from Gulf Coast states to be sold during warm weather months - unless they're processed.

"If they have to go through a lot of red tape, that may mean more oysters from North Carolina will be imported; which I don't think that will be a bad thing," said Quill.

With an increase in demand, suppliers could raise the price of oysters which would help the local economy.

"Basically, they won't go up too much," said Lee Smith with Howard's Seafood.  "Singles are more expensive anyway. Stumps are going to be more than clusters."

Smith says oyster season has been a huge success so far, and what's a loss to some will be a gain for southeastern North Carolina in the future.

"We will make more and from Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia places like that not shipping out as many oysters they'll have to buy from us," said Smith.

Many area seafood restaurant owners say they buy their oysters locally, so the new regulations won't impact them.

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