Bilateral Shellfish Initiative
The Bilateral Shellfish Initiative was established to enhance international collaboration between shellfish farmers in North Carolina with shellfish farmers in coastal France. At one time the commercial harvesting of oysters provided numerous jobs and supported local coastal economies along the North Carolina Coast. The American (Eastern) oyster Crassostrea virginica was the primary species supporting the industry. Clam and scallop harvests also contributed to the income of fisherman. Commercial fisherman often harvested multiple species througuhout the year as individual species became accessible and harvesting of individual species was permitted by the State Division of Marine Fisheries. But the oyster industry off the Coast of North Carolina, and along much of the East Coast has been in decline for decades. Oyster pathogens such as Haplosporidium nelsoni and Perkinus marinus, have resulted in substantial mortality and the lose of traditional nursery areas. Coastal development, and contaminants in runoff have also contributed to the decline. Similar disease and coastal habitat issues have contributed to declines in the clam industry. As an alternative a small number of enterprising commercial fisherman explored the potential farming of shellfish as a supplement to their incomes.
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| Eastern oyster || Hard clams|| Sea scallops |
France is a world leader in oyster production and also farms and harvests other mollsucan shellfish. The oyster industry had sporadically experienced devastating mortality in their native oyster species (e.g. Ostrea edulis), but had consistently responded, and at times redefined itself by farming other species. They have a rich history of farming, oysters, mussels and some clam species.
The Bilateral shellfish initiative was established to introduce NC farmers to shellfish farming techniques used in France, and give French shellifish farmers the opportunity to see how shellifish are farmed and harvested in the NC. With funding generously provided by the Florence Gould Foundation and IFREMER in France, a series of extension and cultural exchange visits were conducted between US shellfish harvesters and growers and shellfish farmers in Coastal France.