Transition into winter months also means a change in local, fresh seafood

Published: Nov. 20, 2014 at 10:40 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2014 at 10:40 PM EST
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UNCW Center for Marine Science researchers place groups of oysters into the ocean. (Source: WECT)
UNCW Center for Marine Science researchers place groups of oysters into the ocean. (Source: WECT)
Fresh flounder come in by the caseloads at Motts. (Source: WECT)
Fresh flounder come in by the caseloads at Motts. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As we begin to transition into our winter wardrobe, the environment is going through cycles that changes what's on your dinner menu. The cooler temperatures are affecting the local seafood and fishing industry.

“It definitely slows down,” explained manager of Motts Channel Seafood Tom Franz.

In Wrightsville Beach, Franz said business may get slower but it's mostly because there aren't as many tourists.

“We have a good base of loyal, local customers,” Franz added.

While the change in season may mean slower business, customers aren't expected to see much of a change on their wallets or at least they shouldn't according to Franz.

“The prices are all about supply and demand," Franz said. "They fluctuate throughout the year.”

The main thing customers will notice is what's locally available.

“Flounder, grouper right now is fantastic,” Franz explained.

Researchers agree; however, the cold weather does have other effects.

“The other one that's very popular this time of year is speckled trout or spotted sea trout,” North Carolina Sea Grant Fishery Specialist Scott Baker said.

Baker says this type of trout is at the extreme northern end of its range.

“So any time we have prolonged cold events it can create cold stun kills,” suggested Baker.

UNCW Center for Marine Science Senior Research Associate Troy Alphin says he looks forward to the change of season.

“This is the time of the year where we start harvesting a lot of our oysters and that's what we're after right now. It's the peak time when they start harvesting shellfish and we're getting ready for the holidays," Alphin explained. “When we start thinking about the fish in these areas, these guys are moving in and out of the system. The species we're used to buying in the summer months are being replaced by new species.”

The flux in seasons has other positive impacts for the industry.

“The water begins to cool off and the fear of bacteria begins to fade away,” Alphin added. “We still want all of your seafood to be refrigerated and all that, but some of those environmental concerns begin to go away or at least become lessened.”

If areas in southeastern North Carolina experience a sustained period of cold weather, species end their spawning cycles early. This means negative long term effects, such as a lower supply for next year.

“For the oysters, they probably don't mind a little cool weather. It would probably take a pretty hard freeze to affect them and it'd have to be during low tide,” explained Alphin.

Winter or summer, folks at Motts don't stop for the cold.

“We keep fishin' here. Oh yeah!” chuckled Franz.

Researchers also say the pattern we're seeing now with the weather cycling between cold and warm is actually better for the seafood and fishing versus it staying cold or warm for extended periods of time.

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