Online tool helps promote Wilmington shellfish industry

Published: Jun. 20, 2016 at 10:26 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2016 at 11:44 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While many restaurants in the Cape Fear region offer shellfish on the menu, most of it isn't coming from local waters.

"North Carolina consumes a lot more shellfish than it produces," said Troy Alphin, a researcher at the UNCW Center for Marine Science.

Alphin has been trying to expand local shellfish operations in Wilmington waters for the past five years.. He created the North Carolina Shellfish Siting Tool, an interactive way to help local fishermen locate the best spots for growing oysters.

"They were having difficulty finding a site that met their needs and would still be suitable for an aquaculture operation," he said. "The goal of the project was to put public data in the hands of potential shellfish growers so they can make an informed decision about where to start their search."

Jay Styron, President of the NC Shellfish Growers Association, said the tool will help fishermen before they even get in the water.

"It looks like a perfect place for them. They're going to start their business and make a million dollars, and then they find out that it's an area that's closed or there's a big grass bed there that they didn't even realize," he said.

It's their hope the siting tool will reduce how much shellfish we import to North Carolina.

"They assume that they're getting local product. Unfortunately that's not always the case. About 75 percent of the oysters eaten in North Carolina are imported," Styron said.

More information about the North Carolina Shellfish Siting tool can be found here.

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