After A 90 Percent Oyster Decline, Can North Carolina's Oyster Population Be The Comeback Kid?


photo: Frank Harmon Architect PA

It's pretty hard to stomach such a decline in east coast oysters, mighty sad in fact. But the eastern oyster population in North Carolina has declined an estimated 90 percent since the early 1900s. With your usual culprits to blame including habitat loss, a decline in water quality, and over harvesting. But the construction of a new hatchery research center at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington is working to prevent such a decline and their aspirations are pretty large.With the hopes of protecting the ailing North Carolina oyster population, construction has just begun on one of three oyster hatchery facilities in the state. The North Carolina Aquarium Division enlisted the help of sustainable architect Frank Harmon.

Boosting A Declining Oyster Population
With such a sharp decline in the oyster population the water quality on the North Carolina coast has also suffered. Oysters aren't just good eats that sometimes house a glossy pearl, these guys have the ever important job of filtering our water. Without them we're in serious trouble. In fact, one adult oyster can filter sediment and pollutants out of 15 to 50 gallons of water per day, according to the NC Oyster Hatchery Program report that went to the NC Legislature. With a population in such decline you can imagine the impact on our water quality. For example, entire estuaries like the Pamlico Sound used to be filtered and cleaned in a matter of days.

The goal of the three hatcheries combined would be to produce billions of eyed larvae to help reestablish the state's oyster population. This would serve to save the oyster and then in turn reinstate the systematic water filtering system put in place by Mother Nature.

Additionally, the first 12,000 square foot facility will use 100 percent storm water for cleaning the interior of the building. The building is designed to be open air and allow for vigorous fresh air ventilation, reducing the need for air conditioning in the fall and spring. The first facility is set to open in May 2010.

More on Oysters:
85% of World's Oyster Reefs Already Gone, Many Functionally Extinct
Solar Powered Reef Keeping Oysters in East Coast Waters
Oysters are Restored to Waters in Need

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