by Kelsie Barton on March 28, 2024 | Reprinted from Raleigh Magazine

Photo by Owen Scott Jordan, Courtesy of Locals Seafood

Locals Seafood opens a full-service fish market in East Raleigh with a restaurant on the horizon.

It’s ofishal: Locals Seafood has a new home in the City of Oaks. Since closing its popular oyster bar at Transfer Co. Food Hall in 2022, Locals—which supplies restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Triangle with the freshest NC seafood—has been working hard to build out a new HQ off of New Bern Avenue in East Raleigh. Now, that space has received a face-lift (think a brick exterior painted a deep ocean blue and bright white signage) and is ready to welcome the city’s seafood lovers to shop, shuck and socialize.

The heart and “sole” of Locals’ new East Raleigh outpost is a full-service fish market carrying a variety of premium seafood brought in from the coast each week. Although Locals’ team of fishmongers regularly sells seafood at farmers markets across the region—including, most recently, in Asheville—this “inland fish house,” as co-founder Lin Peterson calls it, will display their largest offering of fish that can be cut to order or dressed with herbs and ready to take home to cook. 

It’s a full-circle moment for Locals, which champions buying seafood straight from the source and was born out of a desire to give NC folks who live further inland better access to freshly caught fish. “We make four to five trips each week picking up seafood up and down the coast and bringing it to Raleigh,” says Peterson. “It’s a pretty special thing, but it’s kind of hard to paint that picture because we are our own supply chain. … Now, finally, we have a market attached to that operation so we can tell that story.”

Beyond selling superfresh seafood, the market will allow Locals to expand its retail offerings to include salads, smoked fish dips and other chef-crafted items, plus accoutrements such as seasonings and housemade sauces. And with almost 2 acres of outdoor space at the new property, Locals is destined to become the host with the most when it comes to oyster roasts and other local events. There will even be a lineup of educational classes—everything from how to fillet a fish to oyster shucking 101.

With plenty of room for growth at the new HQ, Peterson confirms a restaurant attached to the market is “in our sights.” (And for those wondering, Locals’ existing resto inside Durham Food Hall is still going strong.) The co-founder points to Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. as a source of inspo for their long-term vision. But during this initial phase, the focus will simply be setting up Raleigh’s home cooks for success.

“From shuck-at-home oyster kits complete with sauces to stuffed whole fish and marinated shrimp skewers, we’ll have everything you need to prepare amazing seafood at home—and teach you how to do it!” shares Peterson. He adds they will even be dry-aging fish on-site, “allowing home cooks to sear the most perfectly crisp fish skin, just like the pros.”

As spring weather beckons us outdoors and our palates begin to crave a taste of the coast, one thing’s for sure: Thanks to Locals and its seafood prowess, Raleighites are in for one shell of a good time.

Winter 2024 Issue | Reprinted from Coastwatch

Nathan King of Seaview Crab Company, Wilmington

Seaview Crab Company has seven locations, including its Midtown Market at 1515 Marstellar Street in Wilmington. Nathan King co-owns Seaview Crab with Sam and Joe Romano.

What motivated you to work in the seafood industry?

Sam and Joe are I are childhood friends who grew up in the same neighborhood in Virginia Beach. We often teamed up with one another to do odd jobs – mainly yard work, so we had established a strong working relationship with one another before we left for college.

Their earliest exposure to commercial fishing occurred when their father worked with a crabber on Knotts Island, North Carolina.

Joe and Sam graduated from UNC-Wilmington, and while in school, Sam worked for a local seafood wholesaler and saw the strong demand for Atlantic blue crabs in the Wilmington area.

I got an engineering degree from Virginia Tech, but I had no interest in a desk job, so I teamed up again with Sam and Joe in Wilmington, this time to test the market demand for local seafood.

In the beginning, we sold only blue crabs to local retailers and restaurants. After about two years of catering only to wholesale markets, we set up a 10’ x 10’ tent on the side of Carolina Beach Road to sell blue crabs directly to consumers at retailer prices. We learned our business could not be sustained long-term selling just crabs, so we added shrimp and sales increased. Later, we began selling a variety of finfish and shellfish to diversify our retail offerings.

Seaview Crab Company’s owners (left to right): Joe Romano, Sam Romano, and Nathan King.

You’ve been building a seafood business since 2005. Describe a typical day running your operation.

Mainly I keep my eye on the revenue streams, and these tell me what items to add and which ones to eliminate. My goal is to quantify our efforts so we make good decisions.

I allow our managers to oversee the daily activities in the retail markets and the kitchen while I focus on the numbers to learn what is working well in the business, what is not, and what activities need to be modified to improve our business efficiencies.

Do you make a strong effort to sell North Carolina seafood? 

We do because our customers appreciate local seafood. We keep our supply chains close to home to keep money in the community and because we value the personal relationships we have with fishermen. Also, buying seafood locally allows us to buy high quality products.

Unfortunately, we cannot source enough local seafood to satisfy the demand for it, especially in inland markets. Inland communities two or more hours from the coast can be “seafood deserts” and are where strong market opportunities exist for us.

What is your best-selling seafood and why?

When we first opened Seaview Crab Company, shrimp was in high demand in Wilmington because it was a “shrimp town.” Now fish of all varieties are in high demand. Flounder is popular with our retail customers, and blue crabs continue to be a strong seller.

We are exploring convenience seafood products. We offer cooked hard crabs for sale online because we want to offer niche products that are not widely available from other seafood businesses.

We update our customers every Friday through email blasts, Facebook and Instagram to highlight our offerings and to tell a seafood story of the week.

Credit: Seaview Crab Company

What opportunities do you see for your business?

Digital platforms definitely enhance communications with our customers, but we also take orders by phone for those who are not comfortable with technology.

We are exploring the demand for prepared foods like seafood spreads and seafood chowders because we recognize a portion of our customer base values convenience in buying meals and preparing them quickly at home.

What are the challenges?

Training. Seafood has so many peculiarities that it is difficult to include all the important details in one training manual.

We also want to provide growth opportunities to our team because it is important for the team to grow with the company. Our growth is dependent on their attitudes and capabilities.

Another challenge is sourcing enough local seafood to meet our market demand. We produce crabs, clams, and oysters with our own boats and licenses, but the bulk of what we sell is from other fishermen, dockside fish houses, and dealers. Unfortunately, the number of active fishermen in our area is decreasing.

A third issue is meeting the regulatory requirements of local and state health officials because some of our products fall under the purview of both county public health and state agencies. But we are working with health officials to meet their expectations in a way that maintains and enhances our business efficiencies.

A North Carolina farmer once said, “The ticket to success is learning about your customers. You have to work until your product is so good your customers want to tell their friends about it.” Do you agree? 

I do agree, and we use technology to communicate with our current customers and to attract new ones. We have built a directory of our customers from the emails we collected since our days operating roadside stands. We learn from them very quickly what species are in high demand and what conveniences they need that we can offer.

We shy away from billboards or ads in newspapers. Digital platforms offer us immediate feedback that tells us how well our current and potential customers are engaging with our online advertising.

A Seaview holiday special: baked flounder stuffed with cornbread, crabmeat, onions, peppers, and arugula. Credit: Seaview Crab Company.

How do you envision your business operating five years from now?

I’d like to see us enhance our customers’ access to North Carolina seafood, particularly people living distant from our coast. I’d also like to see us doing more with value addition, such as expanding our meals-to-go category or introducing more varieties of smoked seafood.

Cut-to-order fish is another opportunity, but that category demands a great deal of wrist action from workers. We need to learn if we will have the workforce to expand that offering to our customers.

People do not come to Seaview Crab Company just for the seafood but also to consult with our staff. So we want engaging people who can educate customers on what we offer and how to have the best experience cooking and eating our seafood at home.

What one thing would you like to share with people that you believe best distinguishes Seaview Crab Company from other North Carolina seafood retailers?

Seaview is still a young, ambitious company. I believe we excel at developing new sales strategies and products to help our customers access and prepare seafood beyond the traditional ways of buying and cooking and eating seafood.

We are not afraid to lose some money to find the right approaches to getting North Carolina seafood to the people who want it.


Seaview Crab Company.

Seaview’s Locations.

Seaview Crab Company on the NC Oyster Trail.

The NC Local Food Council’s story on Seaview Crab Company.

Recipes for crabs and other shellfish from Mariner’s Menu.

Coastwatch on Seafood.

by Frank Graff on January 5, 2024 | Reprinted from PBS North Carolina

Oysters, More Than Just Good Eating

There are plenty of oyster fans in North Carolina and for good reason. Fried oysters, oysters on the half shell, oysters in stews and dressings—it’s all good.

But there are many other reasons to love oysters. Oysters help clean the water; one oyster can filter 50 gallons of water. Oyster reefs provide habitat for small fish and protect the coastline from storm damage and erosion. Oysters are also part of North Carolina’s heritage.

“Oysters benefit our state in myriad ways,” said Jane Harrison, a coastal economics specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant. “They are significant in our ecology, culture and economy.”

It’s safe to say our favorite mollusk does a lot. And a new report from North Carolina Sea Grant shows the value of oysters to North Carolina’s economy.”

Oysters by the Numbers

In 2022, North Carolina’s wild and farmed shellfish industry contributed $31.7 million to the state’s economy, North Carolina Sea Grant found. The farmed oyster industry provided almost half of that, $14.6 million, and created 283 jobs. The report shows the farmed part of the oyster industry is now the most important component of the shellfish sector in the state.

“We have more than 300 oyster and clam farms along the coast, and because they are using more efficient technology than in past years, they have defied the odds to become profitable,” adds Harrison. “It’s exciting to see the exponential growth of these small family farms, especially in producing such a delicious and environmentally important and sustainable seafood.”

Nearly 55,000 bushels of oysters came from state aquafarms in 2022. (There are about 100 oysters in a bushel.) That’s up 19% from the previous year and an increase of more than 500% from 2012. It’s also a new high for the industry, according to the report.

“Oysters are great for everybody: they are great for the economy, they are great for the environment, they are great for the palate, so the more the better,” said Ana Zivanovic-Nenadovic, chief program director with the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

Big Plans to Grow the Oyster Industry

Overharvesting, disease and pollution devastated the oyster industry over the past century. And for years, oyster advocates have pushed the state to invest in the oyster industry and restore the reefs that used to dominate the coastline. They say the new report shows their efforts are paying off.

The commercial oyster industry’s growth is now so strong, North Carolina Sea Grant, the North Carolina Coastal Federation and other advocates believe the industry can contribute $100 million to the economy by 2030.

Part of the growth plan involves the construction of a shellfish aquaculture hub in Carteret County. Work should start in the summer of 2024.

The goal of the aquaculture hub is to have enough space for growers to not only collaborate, but also to store gear and put their products in refrigeration on the waterfront.

Federal law requires oysters to be taken from the water and put into mechanical refrigeration within five hours.

“Small growers have a hard time filling very large orders because there is only so much work you can do on a small boat, and there’s only so much you can do inside that five-hour time window,” Chris Matteo, with the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association, told Coastal Review.

If the hub is successful and the oyster industry continues to grow, more hubs are planned throughout the state.

Published on January 3, 2024 | Reprinted from NC State CALS News

With their lumpy grey shells and their gooey insides, oysters aren’t much to look at. But, oh, there’s nothing like the way they taste. 

For many food lovers around the world, oysters are considered a sumptuous delicacy, right up there with champagne and caviar. 

And, as you’ll hear on this episode of Farms, Food and You, they have tremendous value beyond the dinner plate. 

Our guest today is Jane Harrison, a coastal economics Extension specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant. And she’s also a faculty member in the colleges of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. 

She’ll delve into a topic covered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ magazine, discussing the growing farm industry for North Carolina oysters and a tourism effort aimed at helping garner greater awareness of this sometimes-misunderstood creature.

Podcast Transcript

With their lumpy grey shells and their gooey insides, oysters aren’t much to look at. But, oh, there’s nothing like the way they taste. 

For many food lovers around the world, oysters are considered a sumptuous delicacy, right up there with champagne and caviar. 

And, as you’ll hear on this episode of Farms, Food and You, they have tremendous value beyond the dinner plate. 

Our guest today is Jane Harrison, a coastal economics Extension specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant. And she’s also a faculty member in the colleges of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University. 

She’ll delve into a topic covered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ magazine this month, discussing the growing farm industry for North Carolina oysters and a tourism effort aimed at helping garner greater awareness of this sometimes-misunderstood creature.


One thing you might not know about North Carolina oysters? These days, nearly half of them are not harvested from wild populations. Instead, they are grown at shellfish farms that dot the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the estuaries where fresh- and saltwaters mix. 


In 2016 less than a decade ago, most of the economic impact of shellfish came from the harvest of wild oysters and clams. But in 2019, for the first time, the harvest of farmed oysters surpassed wild.

Last I checked, there were over 300 farms – so shellfish farms. 

There’s really been a sea change in terms of local oyster supply over the last decade. We have seen so many oyster growers start to operate. … And what’s exciting about that, it means that you could go to a restaurant year-round and get North Carolina oysters.


Did you catch that Harrison said “year-round”? That’s something else you might not understand about oysters todays: Contrary to handed-down wisdom, it’s OK to eat them in months that don’t end in Rs.


Now, wild oysters are only available in our state from October 15th to about April. So those are the fall-winter months. And the reason that you don’t eat wild oysters in the summer months is because that’s spawning season. So that’s when we want to leave the oysters to do their thing and come back to us. Whereas shellfish farms don’t have to worry about that. They’re really using oyster seed, and so they’re not worried about … wild oyster populations.  

And it’s a great, I’d say, opportunity also to relieve pressures on our wild oysters. So if you’re in a restaurant in the summer months in North Carolina and you see North Carolina oysters on the menu, they are safe to eat, and they are delicious.


In fact, oysters are safe in the non-R months, and they’re safe to eat raw, as long as you’re not immune-compromised or have a chronic health issue.


There are very strict regulations when it comes to the refrigeration aspects of production. So I know that can be a concern for some folks about health issues. Vibrio is a major pathogen that we have to worry about in our coastal waters, but generally that only affects oysters in very hot places, more like the Gulf. We have not had any issues in North Carolina because of Vibrio, but that’s … another reason why you always need to refrigerate and bring your oysters down to temperature to keep them safe and healthy to eat. 

If I know where the oysters are from, if I know they’re North Carolina oysters, I happily eat them raw all day long. But it you are immune-compromised, then certainly I recommend cooking them – so maybe broiling them, baking them, roasting them. 


Putting oysters on the menu year-round is just one of the benefits of the oyster-growing industry. In North Carolina, the rise of farmed oysters is helping make up for huge losses in wild shellfish populations and harvests that have occurred over the past 120 years. 

In 1902, North Carolina harvests of eastern oysters peaked at 800,000 bushels, then fell to little more than 37,000 bushels of wild oysters in 1994. Overharvesting, the loss of suitable places for juvenile oysters to settle, degraded water quality, and diseases have all played a part. 

In recent decades, wild oyster harvests have staged a comeback, thanks to efforts to restore their habitat and protect them from diseases. But yields remain a fraction of what they were back in the early 1900s. 

Wild fisheries are limited for a number of reasons, whether it’s habitat change or degradation. Sometimes it’s climate change affecting our fisheries – so oysters, they don’t move much, but when you look at finfish, they will head north if their looking for colder waters. And so we’ve seen a lot of movement of fisheries because of the warming of seas. 

But when it comes to really restoring our wild oyster populations, I think at this point we’re focused on activities to bring that oyster seed, wild seed and the shell materials – so we also call that cultch – C-U-L-T-C-H – back into the environment because if you have … the baby oyster floating out there in the water column and it has nothing to attach to, it doesn’t have anywhere to go. And so there are kind of two pieces there, where you need both the baby oyster and the house for it.


That housing made of old shells is not just good for the oysters. It’s important to other marine life and to the people who depend on that marine life for food and for income.


One of the major success stories of oysters is that they are a keystone species in the coastal ecosystem. So they filter water, they improve water quality and provide habitat for other marine creatures, and they are food for other organisms. 

So when you see a wild oyster reef out in the coastal areas, that’s where you’re going to find your spawning fish, your baby crabs, all the fish that are hiding from predators – that’s their place to grow up. We want to see our wild oyster populations grow tremendously.


Couple the state’s efforts to restore wild oyster populations with an increasingly important oyster farming industry, and some say that the time is right to make North Carolina and Virginia, our neighbor to the north, the Napa Valley of oysters. 

Still, some efforts to increase North Carolina oysters and clams from a $30 million a year industry to a hundred million have met with opposition raised in the interest of tourism. 

But for Harrison, oysters and tourism go hand-in-hand. She leads the NC Oyster Trail, a grassroots effort aimed at ensuring that oysters remain a vital part of the state’s economy and culture. Launched in 2020, the trail has garnered national media attention and sparked local enthusiasm.


The North Carolina Oyster Trail is an avenue to connect North Carolinians with where oysters come from. So whether you’re interested in eating them, maybe you want to know where they live, where they grow up. Maybe you want to get out in a boat and see how they’re grown. With shellfish mariculture, we try to really provide very unique oyster experiences across the state.

So in the coastal areas, for example, you could go on a shellfish farm tour. So you can go out with a oyster grower and see their gear, the technology that they’re using, and even perhaps taste an oyster right from the water. 

If you’re a little bit inland, like the Triangle or Charlotte or Greensboro area, I recommend you check out one of the seafood restaurants or restaurants that serve North Carolina oysters that are featured on the North Carolina Oyster Trail.


Harrison says that the trail grew in response to growers’ and fishers’ desire for consumers to gain a better understanding of oysters and their industry.


I think there’s been a long-held assumption that oysters from Massachusetts or Washington State or Prince Edward Island – other places around the world – were somehow more desirable than our oysters. But yet we have some of the, I think, tastiest oysters on the planet, and some really special ones, too.


One of the “special ones” that Harrison points to makes a myth out of my statement that oysters are not much to look at. She says the green gill oyster is far from homely.


This is an oyster that the gills look slightly green, which in years past, people would’ve thought ‘Uh-oh. I’m not supposed to eat that.’ But actually it’s because they’ve eaten a particular type of algae that makes them green and they have a little bit different flavor, and they’re beautiful when you look at them.

And so that’s something that our oyster farmers have capitalized. … They saw some French oyster growers also offering this kind of oyster at a premium, so a higher price, and now they’re doing that. So it’s a special time of year in the winter months when these oysters take on those conditions. And so that’s kind of an exciting specialty oyster for our growers.

I’m really excited to see the market grow, grow, grow. When you think about demand for seafood, it’s high. We all, many of us, love to eat seafood, and it’s a little bit expensive. So if we can bring the supply up, especially of a sustainably harvested seafood product, then that can allow the prices to go down a ittle bit, and that would allow more people to enjoy the super delicious and very nutritions lean protein source. I always think of oysters as one of the most sustainable and healthy-for-use proteins that’s out there. So more people, I think, should have access to that.


Through the NC Oyster Trail, Harrison and her partners are helping to make sure that they do. And with 80 sites to choose from, Harrison has a hard time choosing a favorite, but she paints an enticing picture of what’s out there to explore.


Well, definitely any of our shellfish farm tours. So one of my favorites, Ghost Fleet Oyster Company, they are out near Hampstead – central cost – and they just do a fabulous job taking you around, showing you what their life is like, being oyster farmers. They are, I think, maybe natural educators. I love hearing the stories of our shellfish growers. 

There’s another spot, Hooper Family Seafood, and they actually grow clams, and Mark Hooper and his wife, Penny, they have also been commercial fishers. So Mark goes out, he does crabbing, he harvests other kinds of seafood, but I love visiting where they live. They live in down East Carteret County, just a little bit further east than Beaufort. And it’s just breathtakingly beautiful to see where they are doing this work. Just to see the care that they take with their seafood and to hear their stories too, of what they’ve seen out in the water, the changes that are coming, both good and bad. I love to have that knowledge.


To find out more about the NC Oyster Trail, check out the latest issue of CALS Magazine at or the trail’s website at nc oyster trail dot org to tailor your next oyster outing.

Thank you for joining us on Farms, Food and You, produced by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. We hope you’ll be back to listen again next time, as we take a look at a new set of courses designed to open doors to diverse career options in the state’s meat processing industry.

About Jane Harrison

Jane Harrison is a coastal economics Extension specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant and a faculty member in North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, where she teaches a course on rural economics. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in natural resources management from Oregon State University. Her work informs coastal decision makers at the intersection of sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources and economic development.

by DRIFT Staff on January 3, 2024 | Reprinted from DRIFT Travel

The NC Oyster Trail is an initiative in North Carolina, USA, aimed at promoting oyster tourism and education. This trail is not just a physical route but a network of experiences that include oyster farms, restaurants serving local oysters, educational tours, and festivals centered around oysters. It’s designed to provide visitors with a comprehensive understanding of the oyster industry in North Carolina, including the ecological importance of oysters, the process of oyster farming, and the culinary delights of eating oysters. The trail offers a unique opportunity to explore local communities, learn about sustainable aquaculture, and enjoy fresh, locally harvested oysters.

When you embark on the NC Oyster Trail, you can expect to discover the distinct flavors of the coast through a variety of homegrown oysters, each with its unique taste profile – from salty and sweet to buttery. Oyster Farm Tours are a highlight of the trail, providing an up-close look at the journey of oysters from tiny seeds to the delicacies served on your plate. These tours also educate visitors about the environmental and social impacts of oyster farming.

The trail is more than just a culinary adventure; it’s an effort to sustain and grow the supply and demand for North Carolina oysters, thereby benefiting the state’s seafood industry and coastal communities. This initiative also aims to increase public awareness about the importance of oysters for ecological balance, such as their role in water filtration and shoreline restoration.

Restaurants and markets along the trail offer a range of oyster dishes, from raw and steamed oysters to innovative recipes like Oysters Rockefeller and oyster shooters. Each participating location brings its unique twist to these dishes, often paired with a selection of wines and sauces to enhance the oyster-eating experience.

By participating in the NC Oyster Trail, visitors not only indulge in delicious seafood but also contribute to the state’s efforts in environmental conservation and supporting local economies.

For more detailed information and planning your visit, you can check out the official NC Oyster Trail website here.

by Megan Nichols on November 13, 2023 | Reprinted from The Outer Banks

Have you ever taken the time to consider where your seafood comes from? In North Carolina, we are immensely fortunate to have a thriving coast which offers fresh seafood ranging from locally caught fish to carefully grown oysters.

As lifelong North Carolina residents, we enjoy seafood and take pride in our state’s quality selection. We were excited to learn more about the efforts along our coast to participate in the ethical, sustainable farming of oysters.

If we relied solely on wild-caught oysters, we’d be doomed to only eat the shell-fish delicacy in the fall and winter seasons. Surviving half the year without oysters sounds like a nightmare to me! Thank goodness we have access to delicious oysters all year thanks to vigilant farmers.

In addition to ensuring our supply year round, oyster agriculture is beneficial to the environment. This sustainable form of farming enhances local ecosystems by restoring wild oyster populations and providing a safe habitat for other species to thrive.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is home to the perfect environment for raising oysters and we had a chance to learn about the local oyster farms during a recent tour with Cape Hatteras Oyster Company. They, along with a few others, work day in and day out to bring fresh, delicious oysters to some of our favorite restaurants across the state.

Here are a few stops on The North Carolina Oyster Trail that you should know about:

Cape Hatteras Oyster Company

We were lucky enough to experience first hand what goes into the operations at Cape Hatteras Oyster Company. Their farm is located on Hatteras Island where they grow oysters, offer tours, and sell oysters onsite as well as wholesale. The father and son duo were clearly passionate about their farm and it was a pleasure to meet them and learn more about sustainable shellfish agriculture.

Slash Creek Oyster Farm

Also located on Hatteras Island, Slash Creek Oyster Farm provides fascinating tours of their farm and gives guests an opportunity to learn from the owners. Spurgeon Stowe has been a Hatteras resident for five generations and has expansive knowledge of oyster farming, fishing, and crabbing. During the tour, Spurgeon shares interesting stories from his life as an oyster-growing Hatterasman.

Smith Oyster Company

Located in Nags Head in the famous Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, Smith Oyster Company operates an oyster farm as well as a charter boat that guests can board to tour the farms and harvest their own oysters! It’s a great opportunity to get hands-on experience and leave with a tasty haul.

Hopefully the next time you indulge on deliciously salty local oysters, you’ll now have an idea of where they came from. We hope you’ll take the time to schedule a tour to see this magic in action for yourselves!

by Stacia Strong on October 24, 2023 | Reprinted from Coastal Review

Every year in October, the state celebrates North Carolina Oyster Month. The oyster industry in North Carolina has been steadily growing in recent years to make the industry worth $100 million by 2030. To help reach that goal, local oyster growers are trying new ways to expand their farms.

Oysters are a fundamental species in estuaries, providing significant benefits to the ecosystem.

“Oysters are great for everybody, they are great for the economy, they are great for water quality and habitat, and they are great for the palate. So, the more, the better,” says Ana Živanović-Nenadović, chief program director with the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

It was with that idea that the North Carolina Coastal Federation and partner groups came together to devise a plan to expand the oyster industry.

“This plan set a very ambitious goal for the state to grow the market value of its shellfish mariculture to $100 million by 2030.”

To reach that lofty goal within the next seven years, it takes oyster growers like Katherine McGlade of Slash Creek Oysters. But growing oysters is a labor-intensive process, which McGlade says means it can be tough to expand your business.

“I was at a very frustrating point I had a lot of demand, and I worked hard to develop a good network of customers that wanted more oysters, but I was having difficulty scaling up,” says McGlade.

Now McGlade is testing out a new system called FlipFarm, which she hopes will help her keep up with that demand.

“It seemed like it solved so many of the issues I was having on my farm.”

The FlipFarm is designed to not let the oyster cages get tangled up or flipped over by the wind, which can happen with traditional cages, and McGlade says this system takes away some of the more strenuous work involved with oyster farming.

“With the attachments for filling and emptying, the oysters come up out of the water in the baskets and then it comes to waist high, you never have to lift them, you never have to bend down to put them in the water, everything happens where your body is in a good strong neutral position.”

While she is just using this equipment on part of her farm, McGlade says she’s excited at how well it’s working and what this could mean for growing her business.

“I think it could make a huge difference in terms of the small farmer producing more oysters with less labor ’cause that’s the name of the game.”

Oyster farmers in another region of the state will also be getting a helping hand soon in the form of a facility that could provide growth opportunities as well.

“A shellfish aquaculture hub, this hub is a facility that once built will provide the growers with critical logistical infrastructure like state-of-the-art refrigeration and storage room for the product, a place to work, a place to store their gear, and equally important a place to work together and collaborate.”

News from our publisher

“Stories From the Coast” is a video series produced by the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s communications team, which operates independently from the Coastal Review editorial staff.

by Sam Jones on October 18, 2023 | Reprinted from NC State CALS Magazine

From the salty breeze of the Outer Banks to the winding undulations of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a new food trail is introducing people to a rather misunderstood creature: the eastern oyster.

Staff at Ghost Fleet Oyster Co. provide a unique educational experience. Photo by Justin Kase Conder.

In the spring of 2020, North Carolina Jane Harrison, a coastal economist on the North Carolina Sea Grant extension team, launched the NC Oyster Trail, a grassroots network of oyster growers and fishers; seafood markets, restaurants and festivals; environmental education centers; and conservation organizations. The trail has grown to encompass 80 sites offering memorable experiences for foodies and farm fanatics of all kinds. 

Harrison wears a few hats—she is an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and a graduate faculty member in the College of Natural Resources. Her primary position is as coastal economics extension specialist for NC Sea Grant, where she repeatedly heard from shellfish growers about the need for more consumer awareness of their tasty bivalves. 

“Some of my agribusiness students have tried their hand at growing oysters,” Harrison says. “Oyster farmers have stepped up to the plate to grow shellfish with innovative marine aquaculture technologies, providing a truly sustainable protein.” 

“The NC Oyster Trail is about changing our culture, one oyster at a time.” 

Despite their environmental benefits, Harrison says oysters are not the No.1 seafood that people choose. Shrimp and salmon are still the most popular choices. 

For those unfamiliar with oysters, or maybe even wary of them, consider these salty jewels an adventure for your taste buds. Oysters possess their own distinct flavors, known as “merroir,” derived from the unique aquatic environments in which they are grown. Some oysters might have a savory umami taste while others have a mineral flavor. They can be rich or light, and their saltiness varies widely. 

Despite these qualities, Harrison has found that many people are still unsure about when to eat oysters, how to prepare them, and whether or not they’re safe to eat. She sees the NC Oyster Trail as a critical educational tool for consumers and policymakers. 

To ensure the NC Oyster Trail would be successful, Harrison conducted a market demand study led by Whitney Knollenberg, an associate professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Feedback from over 1,000 coastal visitors and local seafood consumers helped determine the level of potential interest in an oyster trail. Harrison and her colleagues used the results to map out a trail with a variety of family-friendly opportunities to help ease oyster skeptics into the wonderful world of life on the half shell. 

“Our study showed a high demand for seafood educational experiences, especially for shellfish farm tours,” Harrison says. 

Graphic by Patty Mercer

According to their study, the average willingness to pay for an oyster farm tour was $150 per person. Whether booking a private boat tour in Topsail Sound or ordering a dozen fried oysters for happy hour in Raleigh, visitors to the NC Oyster Trail are part of the seafood industry’s $300 million annual contribution to the state’s economy. That significant economic impact comes with positive environmental impacts as well.

“People really do want to understand how oysters are grown and their role in the coastal ecosystem,” Harrison says.

Wild oysters provide many ecosystem services as a keystone species. An individual oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, which greatly improves water quality. They also supply food for other marine organisms and provide spawning habitat for juvenile fish and crustaceans. However, their numbers have been decimated over the years due to overharvesting and environmental degradation.

The NC Oyster Trail works to counterbalance this pressure on wild oysters by promoting the consumption of farmed oysters. Some sites on the trail showcase living shorelines made from recycled oyster shells that create new wild oyster habitat and protect coastal land from hurricanes. The NC Oyster Trail offers boat and kayak tours of conservation projects as well as volunteer opportunities to help restore damaged environments.

Graphic by Patty Mercer

“The NC Oyster Trail is about changing our culture, one oyster at a time,” says Cody Faison, co-owner of Ghost Fleet Oyster Co., which offers customized oyster farm tours in Hampstead.

Three years into running the NC Oyster Trail, Harrison’s ongoing surveys have found that nearly 90% of visitors are satisfied with their experience. Another sign of success: Farmed oysters now represent more than half of all the oysters consumed in North Carolina.

“We want those who depend on the coastal environment for their livelihood to be successful,” Harrison says. “Especially in our coastal communities, working on the water is a heritage. It’s a part of North Carolina’s history. Being able to sustain and evolve these practices is critical to maintaining our culture, for our sense of self and identity.”

For more information about the NC Oyster Trail, visit

by Amneris Solano on October 5, 2023 | Reprinted from Kenan Fellows

BOLIVIA, N.C.⸺On a sweltering summer day in mid-July, high school earth environmental science teacher Ashanda Grissett boarded an oyster boat off the North Carolina coast. Grissett’s mission was to immerse herself in the intricacies of North Carolina’s $14 million oyster industry and distill her newfound knowledge into an educational Ag Mag for North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program.

“There was a thunderstorm the night before. The wind knocked many of the oyster cages over,” Grissett recalled. “The water wasn’t that deep. The oyster farmer jumped off the boat and walked around to turn the cages over. During the boat ride, he showed me oysters at various stages of their lifecycle.”

Kenan Fellow Ashanda Grissett and her mentor, AJ Stanaland visit an oyster farm in Eastern NC.

Exploring North Carolina’s Oyster Industry

Grissett, a 2023-24 Kenan Fellow, teaches ninth-grade earth environmental science at The Center of Applied Sciences and Technology (The COAST) in Brunswick County Schools. She was named the 2023-24 Teacher of the Year at her school. Grissett admits to having a limited understanding of oyster farming before her internship.

Throughout her three-week internship, Grissett visited four different oyster farms, giving her a comprehensive overview of oyster cultivation from larval to adulthood. 

“It was such an interesting journey because I had a different experience at each farm and saw the entire process,” Grissett recalled. “I also got to eat fresh oysters straight from the water, which was delightful.”

Accompanying Grissett on her oyster farm tours was her Brunswick County Farm Bureau mentor, AJ Stanaland, the owner of Northwest Land & Cattle. Stanaland arranged all aspects of Grissett’s internship and is now working with her to develop the Ag Mag. 

“As a mentor, she was amazing,” Grissett stated. “She had everything lined up and ensured I had a great experience.” 

Photos by NC Farm Bureau Kenan Fellow Ashanda Grissett who explored North Carolina’s oyster industry.

Enhancing Ag Education with the Oysters Ag Mag

Grissett is particularly excited about the virtual aspect of the North Carolina Oysters Ag Mag. Embedded within the publication will be QR codes, allowing students to scan and access a series of videos shot during the summer internship. In these videos, Grissett will narrate information about oyster farming and oyster science to augment the learning experience.

“I like the addition of the virtual component to the year’s Ag Mag because we have all types of learners in the classroom,” Grissett emphasized. “Some of our students learn better by reading while others are visual learners or auditory learners. It makes the Ag Mag more accessible.”

Ag Literacy and STEM Connections

Since 2013, the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C.State University has partnered with North Carolina Ag in the Classroom, the NC Farm Bureau Federation, and a local county Farm Bureau to support an educator who explores a specific agricultural industry. These educators learn about the science behind crop and animal cultivation and explore potential career pathways for students within their region.

Grissett follows in the footsteps of four previous NC Farm Bureau Federation Kenan Fellows who have explored North Carolina’s agricultural industry and created Ag Mags, digital and print resources based on the North Carolina Ag Mags model. 

Packed with fun facts, activities, and career spotlights, the Ag Mag is a STEM-supported teaching tool that provides students with insights into North Carolina’s agriculture industry. Previous Kenan Fellows have produced Ag Mags on beef production, Christmas tree farming, hog production, and peanuts.

Heather Morton, director of North Carolina Ag in the Classroom, underscored the significance of this partnership between the North Carolina Farm Bureau and the Kenan Fellows Program. 

“The most important and meaningful aspect of this partnership is that we are providing local opportunities for educators about agriculture, our state’s number one industry,” Morton stated. “Agricultural literacy is so important for students, and agriculture has so many STEM and interdisciplinary connections.”

Watch a video about Grissett’s experience produced by the NC Farm Bureau.

by Jennifer Allen on June 26, 2023 | Reprinted from Coastal Review

Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit inside the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Photo: N.C. Aquariums

Construction began this spring on an interactive exhibit to educate the public on the importance of oysters at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Aquarium Director Larry Warner told Coastal Review that if a grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, comes through, the plan is to open the exhibit they’re calling “Fish Filter Food: The Human Oyster Connection,” in early summer 2025. 

Warner said they’ll know if they received the grant in September.

The grant is a two-year proposal that includes funds to support formal evaluation, Warner explained. “This said, our hope would be to open the exhibit by early summer of 2025, with evaluation occurring over that summer and closure of the grant process in September of 2025.”

Seed money to get the project started came through the North Carolina Coastal Federation, which has partnered with the aquarium on the exhibit, through two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants. 

“We are requesting an IMLS grant that would be a combination of federal funding with a 100% match provided by the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island,” he said. “We will continue to seek additional funding from other resources as well to round out what we need.” 

During the 2023 Oyster Summit in Raleigh, Warner told the crowd of about 200 that Coastal Federation staff, after receiving the federal grant funds, approached the aquarium in 2020 to look at the possibility of creating an oyster exhibit. 

The Coastal Federation, which publishes Coastal Review, hosted the two-day symposium in May.

Coastal Federation Oyster Program Director Erin Fleckenstein said that the partnership offers a way for people to learn about oyster habitats and the importance of oyster sanctuary work through interactive, hands-on engagement.

The aquarium has roughly 330,000 annual visitors, and “is a great venue to get messaging out,” Warner explained. 

The aquarium is already committed to promoting oysters as part of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and as part of the N.C. Oyster Trail, which lists the Roanoke aquarium as an educational stop.

Because of this, the North Carolina Aquarium Society is acting as a liaison through an agreement with Coastal Federation “to help us make this (exhibit) happen.”

Though the pandemic shutdown caused some delays, Warner said the project was not derailed. In 2020, aquarium staff, coastal federation staff and a stakeholder group began working together.

After several brainstorming sessions – and lots of ideas – Warner said the ideas were distilled down to a “very simple message to get this out to people who come through the aquarium on a single-day basis.”

The exhibit, which will start in the aquarium’s Wild Wetlands area and wind through to the Ocean’s Edge area.

Rendering of “Fish Filter Food: The Human Connection” exhibit from the presentation. Image: N.C. Aquariums

The exhibit focuses on four main topics, with each of the following represented in a specific area: “Fish,” or how oysters interconnect in the aquatic and terrestrial food chain; “Filter,” featuring oysters and the benefits they provide to the marine environment; “Food,” or oysters and the benefits they provide to humans; and “Guest Actions”, or how you can help.

In the aquarium’s Croatan exhibit, Warner said the plan is to add a replica inside that habitat of the process of oyster reef restoration, where there will be information defining oysters and oyster reefs.

The exhibit will contain tanks filled with the animals found underwater around oyster reefs accompanied by an activity to identify the different types of creatures.

Rendering of the “Fish” area of the exhibit from the presentation. Image: N.C. Aquariums

One area Warner said they’re especially excited about is the filter section.

“Because we can’t actually put an oyster display to show the oysters actually filtering the water, we’re going to use digital technology,” Warner said. There will be a reef projected on the wall that simulates how oysters filter water. 

Plans also include a hands-on display of a mural with an oyster reef and audio samples of underwater sounds, a section on how microplastics and other marine debris can affect oyster reefs, and videos with messages from area scientists and professionals about oysters.

Rendering of the “Filter” area of the exhibit from the presentation. Image: N.C. Aquariums

Warner said in a recent interview that since the Oyster Summit took place there have been more detailed discussions “regarding many of the wonderfully planned, hands-on interactives with outside vendors who can make them the best they can be. As with everything, it seems, post-pandemic pricing for this type of design work has increased significantly.”

As a result, the new challenge will be seeking additional funding to round out the exhibit, “but with the tremendous excitement shared by many who have seen the designs, I’m quite hopeful we’ll be able to secure the additional funding,” he said.

Warner explained that the process to create the exhibit has “been amazing. There are so many dedicated individuals involved who are passionate about oysters and their role with the coastal ecosystem, environment, and economy.”

Rendering of the “Food” area of the exhibit from the presentation. Image: N.C. Aquariums

The process started with stakeholder meetings to determine key educational points. 

“Designing an exhibit from concept to completion is never a fast process, particularly if you want to make sure you’re hitting the right educational points without overwhelming the audience, all the while making it fun, interactive and engaging. COVID was a definite impact in this process, as it did slow the process down considerably,” he said. “The silver lining with COVID, however, was that it gave us more time to examine how we approach the messaging – not to mention it has allowed time for additional programs and support to develop in the overall oyster arena.”

If the Institute of Museum and Library Services funding comes through, Warner said he plans to propose presenting the exhibit during the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA, annual conferences in 2024 and 2025, and he hopes to write an article about the exhibit for varying state and regional publications, as well as AZA’s publication. 

“I have also already been approached by the National Aquarium in Baltimore about our exhibit with interest in potential educational collaboration. One of the nice qualities about exhibits is that if they prove successful, there is always the opportunity to create a scaled-back traveling edition or duplicate the exhibit at other facilities,” Warner said. “And finally, we want to make sure that our commitment to the N.C. Oyster Trail’s education component supports the importance of informing the public on the importance of oysters.”

© 2023 NC Oyster Trail.