North Carolina Aquaculture Gear Management and Storm Preparedness Workshop
Aquaculture, or the farming of aquatic animals like oysters, is becoming more and more popular in coastal areas. As the demand for seafood rises around the world, aquaculture provides a sustainable way to meet that demand. In North Carolina, this industry has grown quickly, with the state seeing about ten times the shellfish lease applications from 2012 to 2019, and more $USD value than wildlife shellfish since 2018.
Much of the gear used in aquaculture, and in particular shellfish farming, is made from plastic, which makes it lightweight and less expensive than non-plastic gear. However, gear like clam cover netting, cages, bags, ropes, and PVC pipe can be lost accidentally during storms and other events, or abandoned if a company goes out of business. This can be an expensive loss to farmers, and pose an entanglement or ingestion threat to coastal wildlife or injure important habitat like submerged aquatic vegetation.
In order to get ahead of potential gear loss issues, especially after several busy hurricane seasons in the state of North Carolina, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration’s Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) and Marine Debris Program (MDP) partnered with the NOAA National Weather Service, North Carolina Sea Grantoffsite link, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheriesoffsite link, and North Carolina Coastal Federationoffsite link to host a virtual aquaculture gear management and storm preparedness workshop on April 8, 2021.
View the Agenda
Close to 60 individuals from the shellfish farming community, including local farmers and aquaculture business owners, attended the workshop and received resources to help prevent aquaculture debris and prepare for storm events. Presenters from government, academia, and shellfish industry discussed the importance of environmental stewardship, developing farm storm preparedness plans, and provided practical management techniques to farmers, such as proper gear anchoring methods and severe-storm preparation strategies. Sessions included:
- NOAA Overview: Marine Debris Prevention and Disaster Preparedness
- Florida Perspective: Best Management Practices and Storm Preparedness
- Framing the Issue in North Carolina
- Weathering the Storm: NOAA National Weather Service Tools for Growers
- Storm Preparedness Planning: Developing Plans for Shellfish Farms
- Considering Environmental Parameters for Proper Siting of Shellfish Farms
- Aquaculture Gear Management Techniques
- Panel Discussion: Best Management Practices from Shellfish Farmers
You may view a recording (YouTube video) of the workshop here
With support from NOAA’s Southeast and Caribbean Regional Collaboration Team, all interested shellfish farmers who attended the workshop will be provided with free TOP-ME flat gear tags to tag their in-water aquaculture gear. These tags will help identify the owner if gear is ever lost or displaced during a storm event.
In the coming months, workshop proceedings will be made available that summarize the workshop sessions, and will include additional resources to prevent shellfish aquaculture debris from entering the coastal waters of North Carolina.