NEW Hanover County is currently home to eight
shellfish farms. The temporary ban, which came
out of a state law in July 2019, is from the Wrights-ville
Beach bridge to an area around Snow’s Cut. It
is set to expire July 1, 2021.
“In 2011, we had a total of two applications for shellfish leases, in
2019 we had 106. That is a 5200 percent increase,” says Jacob Boyd,
Section Chief of Habitat and Enhancement for the North Caro-lina
Division of Marine Fisheries. “We really saw that huge jump
around 2015 and 2016. And that is also when we saw a large shift in
the type of lease requests. You have cages on the bottom, or cultch
material laid on oyster grounds to furnish points of attachment,
that can’t be seen much except for the corner markers. Whereas,
with water columns, using the floating bags or cages, you can see all
those floating on the water.”
Boyd says that population growth in southern regions and the
narrowness of some water bodies brought about a lot of NIMBY
One tool his department launched to help all stakeholders is a
GIS map that shows existing shellfish leases and any applications
throughout the state.
Hurdles aside, area oyster farmers, sellers and restaurants antici-pate
the added interest the NC Oyster Trail will bring.
MacNair, who sells oysters from his N. SEA. Company farm
seven days a week, is working on his oyster trail goal.
“My uncle got me into oyster farming,” MacNair says. “He started
a farm in Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco, called Hog Island
Oyster Company. It is something of an oyster mecca. They have a
really awesome retail site with a picnic area. You can sit right there
on the water and see the crew bringing in oysters in the background,
you can shuck your own or get some on the half shell. That’s what
I’m trying to do for the tourist aspect.”
MacNair, a University of North Carolina Wilmington graduate,
farms a unique Australian technique to produce his branded oysters,
the Dukes of Topsail Sound and the green-gilled Divine Pine. The
green-gills feature a bright teal gill, which is a product of the algae
consumed by the oysters. It’s fairly rare and can be quite sought after.
Restaurants and seafood markets must offer at least one type
of North Carolina oyster year-round to be featured on the Oyster
“All our oysters are local. In fact, they are either Stump Sound,
Topsail Sound, Masonboro Sound or Sneads Ferry,” says Tidewater
Oyster Bar chef Chris Vergili.
Tidewater opened Memorial Day weekend in Porters Neck,
across the road from owners Robert and Leslie Pickens’ Korner-stone
Robin Toone, Jason Gatt, Wendy Buckland, Daisy Gatt and Dan Darazsdi gather around a table at the annual Airlie Gardens Low Country
Oyster Roast in 2011.
WBM november 2020
WBM FILE PHOTO