AquaDebris: Site Restoration and Habitat Recovery Assessment of Shellfish Aquaculture in North Carolina
The North Carolina Coastal Federation is teaming up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to remove derelict aquaculture fishing gear from approximately 30 acres of oyster reef, submerged aquatic vegetation, and coastal wetlands adjacent to Harkers Island, NC, as well as working with shellfish growers and other interested stakeholders to develop best management practices for disposal and prevention of marine debris that could be generated by aquaculture operations.
Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant
Project Dates: August 2017 - July 2018
Who is involved?
The North Carolina Coastal Federation, supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant and in collaboration with Duke University Marine Lab and the NOAA Coastal Aquaculture Siting and Sustainability Program, is restoring habitat and monitoring the recovery of a former abandoned shellfish aquaculture site off Harkers Island, NC. The North Carolina Coastal Federation is also developing best management practices in conjunction with shellfish growers and North Carolina Sea Grant.
What is the project and why is it important?
Shellfish aquaculture has become one of the fastest-growing U.S. industries in the coastal zone. The development of aquaculture is a national priority in order to meet growing seafood demands, address U.S. food insecurity, and revitalize water-dependent coastal economies. However, with this booming industry, derelict aquaculture gear and debris is an increasing concern. Gear can be lost during coastal storms, as a result of material defects, due to improper farming, or from site abandonment. The debris left behind can lead to wildlife injuries, degrade sensitive marine habitats, create safety and navigation hazards, and cause unsightly litter along shorelines.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation is working to remove derelict aquaculture gear from 30 acres of coastal waters off Harkers Island, North Carolina. To assist, Duke University Marine Lab is using unmanned aerial systems to map the impacted area before and after removal operations, and monitor the recovery of marsh, seagrass, and oyster habitats. Additionally, while removal of this debris is important, the North Carolina Coastal Federation is also working with aquaculture growers to prevent debris issues in the future by developing and disseminating Best Management Practices. These Best Management Practices focus on prevention, removal, and disposal of aquaculture marine debris and will be shared with all current leaseholders in North Carolina. A presentation on marine debris and shellfish aquaculture is also being developed and used during an annual required training class for new aquaculture leaseholders conducted by North Carolina Sea Grant.