by Charles Duncan on December 20, 2022 | Reprinted from Spectrum News 1

Joey Huei has been in the commercial fishing industry around the New River for 50 years. (Charles Duncan/Spectrum News 1)

The water was clear but cold in Stump Sound on a recent December Friday. Capt. Joey Huei steered the 20-foot Carolina Skiff through the shallow water between Topsail Island and the mainland. He’s been in the commercial shellfish industry in these waters around Sneads Ferry and Camp Lejeune for 50 years.

Wild oysters peek out of the mud under the water. Oyster farms, rows of cages on anchored buoys, hug the shoreline of the islands in the sound.

“It’s like a cycle, you have good years and bad years. Last year, everywhere we went there were oysters,” Huei said as he steered the boat slowly through the shallow sound. “They’re not as plentiful as they were last year.”

What You Need To Know

North Carolina’s oyster industry is growing on the coast, with both wild-caught and farm-raised oysters

Oysters are good for the economy and the environment, cleaning sea water while creating jobs

North Carolina is promoting its oyster industry with its “Oyster Trail,” with a goal to become the “Napa Valley of oysters”

People in the oyster industry said they like their oysters smoked or raw, but there are plenty of other recipes to try

“The past 50 years, I’ve seen good years and bad years. It’s just something that happens,” he said.

Huei and his son, also named Joe Huei, show how they have always fished for wild oysters with a set of long wooden tongs with metal teeth on the end. He uses the tongs to dig the oysters from the mud, dropping them on the bow of the boat.

Oysters have long been ubiquitous along the North Carolina coast. But the industry is changing as legislators and regulators in Raleigh make it easier for people to develop new oyster farms to supplement the state’s wild catch with things like crop insurance.

North Carolina’s oyster industry is growing. The state’s oyster farmers and wild oyster industry landed more than 1.2 million pounds of oysters in 2021, valued at a record $6.9 million, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

The annual oyster harvest in North Carolina pales in comparison to the state’s neighbor to the north. The commercial oyster industry in Virginia harvests more than double what North Carolina records, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

But North Carolina is working to bolster its oyster industry.

“Stump Sound is some excellent water. It’s very productive, produces some world-class oysters. The oysters here are just fantastic. Some people call them the Cadillac of oysters,” said Ted Wilgis, a coastal scientist with the North Carolina Coastal Foundation.

Capt. Joey Huei navigated his Carolina Skiff through the shallow waters of Stump Sound on a Friday in December. (Charles Duncan/Spectrum News 1)

“Oysters are a very important economic tool as well as ecosystem tool for North Carolina,” he said.

Oysters and other shellfish are a key part of the coastal ecosystem, filtering water and helping create an environment for other creatures in the sound.

The Coastal Federation and the state have done a lot to help protect these waters. From the boat, Wilgis points out Bermuda Island, in the sound between the mainland and Topsail Island. The small island covered in shrubby trees had been slated for development years ago, but the local community, along with Wilgis’ organization and other groups, managed to pull together to protect it.

The Nature Conservancy bought the island and gave it to the state. An old Boy Scout camp, on the mainland side of the sound, is now protected too.

Both the older and younger Hueis have been fishing these waters since they were children.

“When my grandfather was alive he said I’d seen more change in my life than he’s seen in his,” the younger Huei said. “We’ve got shopping malls and housing developments, four- or five-story apartment buildings.”

To build all that, developers have chopped down trees and graded over forests, he said.

“All that runoff has to go somewhere. All those woods used to soak up lots of water,” Joe Huei said. “That water all has to go in the ditches, it all has to go in the ponds, it all has to go somewhere. A lot of that runs into the rivers.”

“I was a commercial fisherman growing up, and my dad was. As far back as I can remember on my mom’s side, they’ve been living here and been commercial fishermen. My grandfather on my dad’s side was a commercial fisherman. We’re really deeply rooted in this area and the fishing industry,” he said.

The Hueis don’t work in the commercial fishing industry much anymore. The elder Huei had a fish house to distribute seafood until Hurricane Florence flooded much of eastern North Carolina in 2018. Since then, they’ve been working with the Coastal Federation to help clean up debris from the storm.

Cody Faison, owner of Ghost Fleet Oysters, said his favorite way to eat oysters is raw. (Charles Duncan/Spectrum News 1)

They still average about a ton of debris a day, as they have for about three and a half years. They spend their days pulling pieces of dock and other big detritus from the sounds and marshes along the coast.

Wilgis said the effort, involving several crews along the coast, has pulled more than 2.6 million pounds of trash from the water.

It’s all part of cleaning this stretch of the North Carolina coast so it will still be here for generations to come. And they still come out to fish and harvest oysters. The family marks Thanksgiving each year with an oyster roast, and they’re planning another to celebrate the new year.

‘Napa Valley of oysters’

The amount of oysters harvested each year has been going up, but Wilgis said the wild-caught harvest has been in a steady decline.

Cody and Rachel Faison, a husband and wife team, own Ghost Fleet Oysters, with their own oyster farm in the sound near Surf City.

Farming oysters is a slow, deliberate process. Talking at a boat landing overlooking the sound, Cory Faison said they get the oysters when they’re about 6mm long. They tend to them as they grow until they’re big enough to be sold to a restaurant, a distributor or direct to consumers.

“When we buy them, they generally start off at a couple cents. By the time we sell them they’re about 75 cents. But it takes about 18 months to get to that point,” he said. “This is not a get-rich-quick scheme.”

“At any one time we have hundreds of thousands of oysters in the water,” Faison said.

He said they grow their oysters so they have a deep cup on one side, perfect for laying out a dish of oysters on the half shell at any top-tier restaurant on the East Coast.

“The vast majority of these are being sold as groups of individual oysters, to restaurants and grocery stores, as individual shucking oysters. These aren’t meant for the big oyster roasts or something like that, these are more high end, they’re a higher-dollar oyster,” said Wilgis, with the Coastal Federation.

These farm-raised oysters grow near the surface of the water, getting more oxygen and nutrients that allow them to grow faster and develop their own unique taste.

Oyster farms use cages in the water column to grow oysters in Stump Sound. (Charles Duncan/Spectrum News 1)

“They put a lot of work into them. They put a crop out and it might take a year or two before they can actually harvest them,” he said.

They have a bright, salty taste, when cracking one open and eating it raw by the boat launch. The flavor is different from the wild caught oysters from the same water. The wild caught are meatier, but don’t fill the shell the same way the Ghost Fleet oysters do.

These different flavors and varieties are part of the reason behind the North Carolina Oyster Trail, a new effort to boost the state’s oyster industry. Faison will give tours of his farm to the oyster aficionados on the trail.

“You go to a restaurant, instead of just seeing Louisiana oysters, Texas oysters, North Carolina oysters, you now see North Carolina oysters representing six or seven different brands representing different tastes from different estuaries from a different grower, and that’s really the opportunity,” said Wilgis.

“A restaurant writer came down and said, ‘North Carolina could be the Napa Valley of oysters.’ And that’s really the dream we’re working towards,” he said.

How to eat oysters

Faison said his favorite way to eat oysters is raw, straight from the shell.

Father and son Joey and Joe Huei said their favorite way is smoked, preferably over wax myrtle wood.

“It gives it a unique flavor, kind of like smoking pork with mesquite,” the senior Huei said. But, he added, using oak will do if you can’t find wax myrtle.

Wilgis agreed with the Hueis, preferring his oysters smoked.

Fried oysters are another popular option in many restaurants along the coast and inland.

There are also more adventurous ways to use oysters: oysters casino, oysters Rockefeller, oyster dressing (also known as stuffing), oyster soup and others.

Mariner’s Menu, a project of North Carolina Sea Grant, has been collecting traditional seafood recipes for more than a decade. Here are a couple of recipes from the Sea Grant site for those that want to get beyond the classic oyster roast:

Oyster dressing (stuffing)

  • 2 cups oysters, drained, liquid reserved
  • 6 cups French bread, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 egg, beaten

“Preheat the oven to 375° F.

“Toast bread until golden brown. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan. Lightly sauté celery and onion. Add poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper.

“Place 4 cups of bread in a large bowl. Crumble the remaining 2 cups of bread and place in a bowl. Combine with the vegetable-seasoning mix.

“Add oysters and egg and toss lightly.

“Add reserved oyster liquid until stuffing is moist, but not packed.

“Place in greased baking pan and bake, uncovered, at 375° F until done and crusty outside, about 30-40 minutes.”

Oysters Casino

  • 1 pint oysters, drained
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ⅛ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

“Preheat oven to 350° F.

“In a skillet, fry bacon until brown. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1 ½ tablespoons of bacon grease. Add onion, green pepper and celery to the skillet and sauté until tender. Remove skillet from heat and add lemon juice, salt, black pepper, Worcestershire, Tabasco and bacon and mix well.

“In a lightly greased baking dish, arrange oysters and then spread the bacon mixture on top. Bake until oysters are done and topping is brown for about 10 to 15 minutes.”

This recipe can also be done with shucked oysters in the halfshell.

Oyster soup

  • 2 pints standard oysters, undrained
  • hot water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup green onion tops, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ white pepper, freshly ground

“Strain oyster liquid into a measuring cup. Chop oysters coarsely. Heat liquid over medium heat, add chopped oysters and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove oysters and reserve. Add hot water to the reserved liquid to make 5 cups.

“Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour gradually, stirring constantly until smooth. Gradually add the hot liquid, whisking constantly, and cook until smooth. Add onion, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add reserved oysters and heat thoroughly. Serve immediately.”

by Alexandra Domrongchai on December 21, 2022 | Reprinted from Food & Wine

We believe that the best vacations are planned around eating, and food trails are one of the best ways to do that. Exploring a state’s regional cuisine through food trails lets you taste some of the best food that region has to offer, while also gaining a sense of its background and history. From Sonoran hot dogs in Arizona to South Carolina’s pimento cheese trail, these thirteen gourmet food trails are the coolest way to explore America.

North Carolina Oyster Trail


To protect their oysters, North Carolina went to war in the late 1800s. As a result, oyster farmers have committed themselves to maintaining the supply of oysters that are showcased on their oyster trail across the state. Check out Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Ricky Moore or take a tour of Oysters Carolina at Harkers Island to explore the bounty of bivalve mollusks.

by Kathleen Squires on December 16, 2022 | Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal

Nothing says celebration like a seafood tower, and that classic extravagance is trending again just in time for your holiday party. Here’s your guide to all the gear, garnishes and gorgeous shellfish you’ll need to construct a proper show-stopper.

LET’S SEA The over-the-top extravagance of a seafood tower belies the relative ease of constructing one. Read on for pro tips from the chefs around the country putting creative spins on the classic.

IMMEDIATELY UPON entry to Deux Chats, the Art Nouveau-style bar/restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., you’re greeted with an extravagant bar-top display of crab legs, lobster claws, shrimp, oysters, clams and sunny lemons, all perched on mounds of crushed ice. In the dining room, heads turn as two-tiered seafood towers parade by. At the base of the one that landed on my table, mussels, oysters and clams nestled among seaweed tendrils, pickled vegetables and radishes. The top tier featured a kick-line of those crab legs, bright-red lobster tails and shrimp, plus pink cubes of salmon crudo garnished with wasabi caviar, and a dainty dice of tuna tartare served on scallop shells.

A display like this invariably inspires a chain reaction of copycat orders, at Deux Chats and at restaurants around the country where the classic seafood tower is this season’s towering success.

Tip: Add kosher or rock salt to keep ice fresh.

Though this sort of swanky display might not be what you’d expect to see more of as inflation soars, Deux Chats executive chef Nicole Gajadhar said she designed her tower to be “indulgent and celebratory,” with the extra flourishes of crudo and tartare, plus brioche buttons and seaweed butter, to bring it “beyond what people would normally expect.” And in Manhattan, chef Edgar Panchernikov created an exceptionally opulent tower for the launch of the Bar at Caviar Russe, a raw-bar extension of a 25-year-old restaurant. Instead of the standard tiered tower, the generous offering of oysters, shrimp, lobster, king crab, Hamachi, bluefin, sea trout, fluke and caviar sits upon a pyramid of shaved ice.

In Mr. Panchernikov’s view, this style of service seems perfectly in tune with the times. “Since the pandemic, I think people not only want to treat themselves with something special, but they are in search of sharing and community,” Mr. Panchernikov said. “The seafood tower is perfect for sharing.”

Chef Thomas Keller, too, detects a desire for social interaction in the tower’s current popularity: “This idea of sharing and nurturing each other is especially important today.” At Bouchon in Yountville and Las Vegas and the Surf Club in Miami, Mr. Keller favors a classic presentation that “stretches back generations and generations, evoking the oyster bars at Les Halles,” the late, legendary market at the heart of Paris.

Tip: If you like, ask your fishmonger to shuck the shellfish for you.

Chef Ken Oringer’s “full-on love affair” with seafood towers stems back to his time training as a cook in France. “In Paris, I loved that there’s no holding back on them,” he said. He said he has included an iteration at every restaurant he’s opened, but he acknowledged that the seafood tower is having a moment. “The seafood available right now has never been better,” he said. The tower at his newest restaurant, Faccia a Faccia in Boston, changes daily in order to respond to what’s best and freshest. It currently includes live sea urchin, live scallops, ruby red shrimp and black bass crudo in addition to the usual suspects. “From a restaurant perspective, seafood towers are good business. They sell themselves,” said Mr. Oringer. He also noted the relatively low labor involved.

At the Ordinary in Charleston, S.C., chef Mike Lata uses the tower to showcase the local catch and support the fishing trade. “Post-pandemic, we realized that our purchasing dollars could really make a difference locally,” he said. “Now 90% of our food comes from local waters.”

Chef Dean Neff of Seabird in Wilmington, N.C., sources his towers close to home, too. “It’s an opportunity for us to get people to appreciate things that are local and a little outside of the box,” he said. “We have a variety of 8-10 super-seasonal things on there.” That might include more-familiar items like local crab claws but also rarities such as ribbed wild mussels, whelks and pinshell clams. From the abundance of locally caught bluefish, mackerel and mullet, he makes smoked dips.

Tip: Serve vodka shots on the side or plant them in the tower itself.

Perhaps the classic tiered tower will forever be associated with Belle Époque-style indulgence, but that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve with the times, too. At Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles, chef Tal Ronnen offers a vegan version, initially inspired by lobster mushrooms from the Pacific Northwest. “They are grown on the coast so they are kissed with that ocean mist,” Mr. Ronnen said. “They also have a beautiful orange color and a flavor that resembles the ocean.” His tower features oyster mushrooms “Rockefeller,” smoked carrot “lox” and kelp caviar. A choice of tequila or vodka shooters makes it extra celebratory.

Shots of Goldwasser feature among the innovations on chef Ann Redding’s tower at Thai Diner in New York City. Thai nam phrik (spicy chile sauce) and tom yum (lemongrass, galangal, lime, chile) complement oysters, shrimp, crab, mussels, scallops, octopus, squid and caviar, served on ornate prayer offering platters made in Thailand.

Maybe that sounds like a tall order to pull off yourself. But a seafood tower is actually an attainable luxury to enjoy at home—low-prep, high-impact, ideal for entertaining. With the following tips, you can fashion a fabulous tower for your next party. Go ahead and invite the A-list. If you build it, they will come.

A seafood tower is an attainable luxury: low prep, high impact, ideal for entertaining.


1. Choose your tower

Nicole Gajadhar of Deux Chats advised choosing a material that is a good conductor of cold, such as metal, ceramic or glass. The platters should be deep enough to hold ice, with a lip to prevent dribbling once the ice melts. No tower? Create tiers by filling a large bowl with crushed ice. Place a medium bowl in the center of the ice in the larger bowl, and fill that bowl with ice. Continue stacking with ever smaller bowls until you have as many tiers as you need. Or, stack round, lipped trays with small bowls between to create tiers. Cake stands can work as long as the platters are lipped.

2. Make a plan

Seabird’s Dean Neff recommended drawing a map outlining what you want, thinking beyond the main elements. “Include something with crunch, such as crackers, a slaw or even raw vegetables, which can act as a palate cleanser,” Mr. Neff said. “Include something pickled and something spicy, such as horseradish or hot sauce, for brightness and balance.” Caviar Russe’s Edgar Panchernikov recommended thinking of the tower as sculpture. “Place the most luxurious items at the top and the center so that they don’t get hidden,” he said. Faccia a Faccia’s Ken Oringer thinks about what can be made ahead. “Keep it somewhat simple,” he said. “Save yourself extra work where you can.”

3. Secure ingredients

At your fishmonger, buy as many precooked and prepped items as possible: shrimp cocktail, peeled and deveined; lobster and crab, already cracked. You can even have them shuck oysters and clams. “Just ask to leave the bottom muscle attached,” said Mr. Oringer. “That way they won’t start decaying. Cover them with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Keep chilled until you serve, ideally the same day.” Pick up a nice gravlax or sashimi to add variety, said Mike Lata of the Ordinary. Ask for seaweed, too, to use as a decorative touch.

4. Be cool

Chill all ingredients and surfaces you will serve seafood on, Mr. Neff advised. An hour in the fridge does the trick. Ms. Gajadhar suggested crushing ice in a food processor. Or, use Mr. Panchernikov’s method “Wrap a bag of ice in a towel and smash it with a rolling pin.” Wait until the last minute to place the ice on the tower. Pro tip from Ms. Gajadhar: A little kosher salt in the ice helps it stay together as it melts.

Save yourself some fuss and buy pre-cooked lobster, crab and shrimp.

5. Place the seafood and sauces

Arrange the shellfish according to your plan. Place raw items such as tartars and ceviche, as well as dips and spreads, on plates and in ramekins. Hang the shrimp, embed the crab legs and make sure everything is easily grabbable. Shuck the oysters and clams if your fishmonger hasn’t done that, and add those last. “Place sauces in bowls or ramekins and set near ingredients they are meant to pair with,” said Mr. Panchernikov.

6. Garnish

Fill in gaps and get creative. Use seaweed, lemon wedges, herbs, decorative shells, edible flowers, even lobster heads. Stick in alcoholic shooters if you wish. Place accompaniments like blini, crackers and potato chips on the side, off the ice, so they won’t become soggy, Mr. Lata instructed. And don’t forget tools and serving utensils such as seafood picks, lobster and crab crackers, small forks, small sauce spoons and caviar spoons.

7. Pair it up and enjoy

Pop the bubbly, crack an ice-cold beer, uncork a crisp white wine or pull the vodka out of the freezer. Then raise a toast to your towering creation.

Photographs by Chelsie Craig for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Anna Billingskog, Prop Styling by Sophie Strangio

by Shivani Vora on December 14, 2022 | Reprinted from The New York Times

Ana Shellem has found peace and prosperity while searching for wild species off the North Carolina coast for her one-woman sustainable fishing company.

Ana Shellem pushing her boat off an island near Wrightsville Beach, N.C. She harvests a variety of shellfish for commercial clients along the coast. Madeline Gray for The New York Times

Six days a week, Ana Shellem rises at 5:30 a.m. and checks the tide and wind conditions for the day. Then she maps out in her mind where on the water she’ll go in search of wild mussels, clams, oysters and stone crabs. Come sunrise, she’s off.

Usually, that means hopping on her main work boat, a 14-foot catamaran skiff.

She’s at sea for three to eight hours, fishing until she gathers the exact number of critters that her 10 restaurant clients have ordered. She spends the later hours of the day hand-delivering her bounty.

Ms. Shellem, 32, has been keeping up this schedule for the last six years, Monday through Saturday. As founder and owner of Shell’em Seafood, a sustainable boutique shellfish company in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., she is fisher-, sales and businesswoman; delivery driver; and, not incidentally, conservationist.

In an industry dominated by men, Ms. Shellem’s success is rare but not unique.

Women throughout history and around the globe have always played a role in fishing, gathering and making good use of the creatures plucked from the sea. More recently, women from Rwanda and the Philippines have also taken on marine sustainability efforts, acting as watchdogs for reefs and pushing back against efforts to overfish.

Ms. Shellem pulling her boat along an oyster bed near Wrightsville Beach. “I own my equipment and am the only employee,” she said, “so the profits are all mine.” Madeline Gray for The New York Times
Ms. Shellem pulling up the anchor for her boat before going out in search of wild species to harvest. Madeline Gray for The New York Times

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted in 2020 that “women play a key role in fisheries sustainability worldwide” and that their participation in commercial fisheries appeared to be increasing in proportion to total fishing workers.

Still, the report said, women’s involvement in commercial fishing overall “remains poorly understood and largely unrecognized in various parts of the world.”

Ms. Shellem, a one-woman operation, has turned her participation into a successful business, selling around $100,000 of fresh shellfish to restaurant clients along the Carolina coast, she said. Some order as many as 600 to 2,000 pieces a week, each at 70 cents to $1.

“I own my equipment and am the only employee, so the profits are all mine,” she said.

One of her clients is Seabird, a popular spot in Wilmington. “We indicate Ana’s shellfish on our menu by name and customers seek them out for their unique taste,” said the owner and chef, Dean Neff.

Seabird serves her mussels in a stout beer broth or as a cold escabeche with leeks, fennel and chiles. Both dishes are menu favorites, Mr. Neff said.

“Her connection to the ocean is evident, and she has a following around here because people are so intrigued by what she does,” he said.

At Poole’s, an upscale diner in Raleigh, Ms. Shellem’s mussels are served in a broth with Dijon mustard, white wine, cream and herbs. And at a sister Raleigh restaurant, Death & Taxes, the oysters are grilled with chili butter and preserved chimichurri.

Ashley Christensen, the owner of Poole’s and Death & Taxes, said: “Ana’s freshness is incredible. Her shellfish is special because she pulled them from the mud herself that same day. Servers love telling her story and customers love to hear it.”

Ms. Shellem harvests in the waters six days a week. “Harvesting is illegal on Sundays in North Carolina,” she said. “Otherwise I would be out on the ocean then, too.” Madeline Gray for The New York Times
Ms. Shellem rinsing a harvest of wild mussels. Madeline Gray for The New York Times

Ms. Shellem came to her business rather unusually. A former actor and model, she joined the touring cast of the live performance Disney show “Bear and the Big Blue House” at age 12. Eventually she settled in New York, where she acted in commercials and ventured into photography. “They were gigs to pay the bills, not passions,” she said.

A photo shoot took her to Wrightsville Beach, about six miles east of Wilmington, and it turned out to be the trip that would reroute her life. “I met Jon and we began dating,” she said, referring to her husband, Jon Shellem.

Mr. Shellem, a longtime local and a co-owner of a bar, had grown up harvesting wild shellfish for his own consumption, and took his future wife on excursions to do the same. “We would be out at sea for hours and come home and enjoy these divine meals of grilled oysters with melted butter or pizza showered with clams,” Ms. Shellem said.

Coming off a decade-long battle with anorexia and bulimia, she said she discovered the pleasure of food for the first time and found independence and solitude on the water.

“There was nothing more satisfying than collecting seafood to feed myself, friends and family just hours later,” she said. “I realized that I wanted to extend my reach to more people by going into the fishing business.”

(She noted that the serendipity of her transformation extended to her married last name, which she took as the name of her business.)

Ms. Shellem cleaning wild oysters and mussels on the dock, separating her piles by client order. Madeline Gray for The New York Times

Ms. Shellem established Shell’em Seafood in 2016, soon after getting a commercial fishing license. She was criticized, she said, mainly from fishermen who didn’t take her seriously because she was a woman. “I had several tell me that they didn’t think I was strong enough to do the job and that I was wasting my time,” Ms. Shellem said.

But she persevered. Now she slips away from the boat that she and her husband call home and hits the sea day after day, later spreading her catch out on the dock and separating the bounty into piles, as ordered by each client.

In her goal of conservation and her stance against overfishing, Ms. Shellem does not harvest even one piece above what was ordered. She delivers her catch personally, riding from client to client at the end of the day in her pickup truck.

Ms. Shellem delivering a harvest of wild-caught mussels to Ryan O’Janpa, the chef at the Second Glass, a restaurant and wine bar in Wilmington, N.C. Madeline Gray for The New York Times

It’s hard work, she said, but she can’t get enough of it. “Harvesting is illegal on Sundays in North Carolina,” she noted. “Otherwise I would be out on the ocean then, too. I love it that much.”

Ms. Shellem’s commitment to sustainability caught the attention of Gov. Roy Cooper who, in August appointed her to be a commissioner for the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, which promotes responsible and sustainable fishing. The commission includes one other woman, who represents the industry’s recreational side.

Shell’em Seafood is poised to expand its footprint, but Ms. Shellem has no such ambitions.

“If I start sending shellfish everywhere, it will sit on a truck for too long,” she said. “It won’t be enjoyed as it’s meant to be, which is as fresh from the water as possible and the reason why I started my business in the first place.”

Shivani Vora is a freelance journalist based in New York who often writes on trends, design, travel and interesting personalities.

by Miriah Hamrick on December 7, 2022 | Reprinted from Wilmington Biz

Seaview Crab Company was one of four businesses recognized in Business North Carolina’s Small Businesses of the Year awards. (Photo courtesy of Seaview Crab Company)

Seaview Crab Company has been named one of the top small businesses in the state by Business North Carolina magazine.
Seaview was one of four businesses recognized in Business North Carolina’s annual Small Businesses of the Year awards. This year’s winners were selected by a panel of three judges who considered the creativity, persistence and community impact of more than 75 applicants across the state.
Seaview has steadily grown since it began in 2006, when co-owners Joe and Sam Romano and Nathan King sold blue crabs they harvested themselves with 50 crab pots. Seaview still harvests crabs, oysters and clams, but now the business’s supply chain stretches up and down the North Carolina coast with inventory sold at seven retail locations plus approximately 30 wholesale accounts.
King said Seaview’s successful evolution stems from small, iterative changes that create a big impact over time, an approach inspired by the Japanese business philosophy of kaizen.
“You start small,” King said. “You win at the small game first and then build on it, instead of doing anything super risky or large.”
In recent years, Seaview’s expansion has centered on providing prepared seafood for customers. To that end, the business’s midtown brick-and-mortar at 1515 Marstellar St. opened a kitchen in early 2020 where customers can grab tacos, po’boys and plates piled with grilled, blackened or fried seafood. Earlier this year, the kitchen rolled out Sunday brunch.
The next small step forward for Seaview is a food truck, which King estimates will debut in the spring.
“It’s something that we know is a good opportunity to get seafood on people’s plates, as opposed to waiting for them to come to us,” King said.
Seaview is also planning to expand its reach inland, where King said communities lack access to North Carolina seafood compared to the more abundant supply around Wilmington.
In addition to its measured approach to growth, King attributed the business’s success to a team of strong employees, some of whom have been with the business for more than a decade.
“We’ve got guys that have been working with us for 10-plus years,” King said. “That’s comforting. It’s not just me. It’s Sam and Joe and a host of teammates that help keep everyone fresh and supported.” He listed Kyle Clossick, Winn Atman, Jon Oracion and Daniel Suggs as some of the core employees who contribute to Seaview’s success.  
Seaview operates out of two brick-and-mortar locations, one in midtown on Marstellar Street and another at 6458 Carolina Beach Road, plus five open-air markets throughout the region.  

by Allison Ballard on October 15, 2022 | Reprinted from Wilmington StarNews

Local raw oysters with accoutrements at manna restaurant in Wilmington, N.C. STARNEWS FILE PHOTO

As fans of local oysters already know, they are a delicacy that can be enjoyed year-round. That being said, it’s a big time for the bivalves. We’re in the middle of N.C. Oyster Week, and the official oyster season (which dictates the harvesting of wild oysters) begins Oct. 15 and ends in March. 

Look around and you can find oyster events, oyster specials and even oyster collaborations, like an upcoming oyster beer from Wilmington’s Mad Mole Brewing. Oysters are big in the state and poised to become even bigger. With that in mind, here’s a look some of the basics about N.C. oysters. 

The Napa Valley of bivalves

In his book “The Essential Oyster: A Salty Appreciation of Taste and Temptation,” author Rowan Jacobsen was the first to tout the relatively untapped potential of the Southeast, even saying that there was something of a renaissance in the industry happening from Virginia to Florida. Since then, those in the industry decided to build on that idea that North Carolina could be a premier spot for oyster growing and harvesting.

Initiatives like N.C, Oyster Week (Oct. 10-16) and the Oyster Trail, which highlights businesses such as markets and restaurants that serve oysters and promote the industry, are supported politically and environmentally because oysters work on several fronts. It’s good business, meets a customer demand, and is a practice that can be done sustainably to clean and nourish the local waterways. 

Previously: What is the N.C. Oyster Trail? And where are the Wilmington-area stops?

Volunteers plant saltmarsh cordgrass along the water line at Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve in Holly Ridge, N.C. in the heart of the very productive shellfish growing areas of Stump Sound. STARNEWS FILE PHOTO

“It’s a win, win, win,” said Chris Matteo, Bayboro-based oyster farmer and president of the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association. “It’s something that actually leaves the estuary better off that when we started.”

Jane Harrison, a coastal economist with North Carolina Sea Grant, said oysters have an economic impact of $27 million for the state and provide more than 500 jobs. But goals are in place to reach $100 million and 1,000 jobs by 2030. Even while wild harvest production has been decreasing in recent years and was estimated at around 50,000 bushels last year, preliminary data from 2021 show that farmed oyster production has outpaced it for the first time. Production was around 59,000 bushels, a 111% increase over 2020.

“Even a few years ago, a lot of the oysters consumed in North Carolina were imported from other places, but that is changing now,” Matteo said.

Roasted oysters at the annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, which takes place each year in Brunswick County. STARNEWS FILE PHOTO

Wild and farmed

When you’re talking about oysters on the East Coast, they’re really all the same. Species, that is. The indigenous oyster is called Crassostrea Virginica, and they are known to be briny and savory with minerality.

From there, though, there can be a lot of differences. Farmed oysters often have a different chromosome make up that makes them suitable for year-round harvest. Other differences can be a result of the salinity of the water, what algae and plankton the oysters eat, and the movement of the tide. This merroir, a sea-inspired version wine’s terroir, can help explain why Stump Sound oysters are different from those growing in nearby Topsail waters, for example.

“They can have a very diverse flavor profile,” Matteo said. “Those grown closer to the Atlantic Ocean have a higher salinity and minerality. Further inland, in waters with a mid-salinity, you see oysters that can be sweet and buttery.”

While oyster aquaculture takes place all year long, commercial fisherman must wait until the oyster season begins. Limits and site restriction are in place. But pros like Ana Shellem, of Shell’em Seafood Co., will forage and fill orders for her restaurant clients. She worked in the hospitality industry before she switched careers. Other fishermen sell to markets and distributors, or direct to customers. Breece Gahl accepts bushel pre-orders from his Wrightsville Beach-based Fresh2U Seafood business, for example.

Because of a difference in the way they develop and grow, the wild oysters are more likely those found in clusters and are the safest to eat raw when collected in the fall and winter months.

All year round

That’s not the case for all local oysters, though. These farmers say they are continually trying to get the message to consumers that mariculture oysters are safe to eat, even in months that don’t end in ‘R.’

“Always. I’m always telling people,” said Matt Schwab of Hold Fast Oyster Co. He’s been in the business about seven years with a farm in New River.

Matt Schwab, of Hold Fast Oyster Co., and Dean Neff, of Seabird restaurant, shuck oysters at Mad Mole Brewing in Wilmington for a special collaborative beer. ALLISON BALLARD/STARNEWS

At the time, there were only a handful of oyster famers working in the state. Now, there are more than 75 and the water acreage being farms has increased for a total of more than 2,100 acres in 2021, Harrison said. The new people entering the business sometimes take it on as a second (or third) career or are starting an oyster farm right after completing an aquiculture program at college, Matteo said.

Holden Davanzo was a stay-at-home mother and manager at an ice rink before she bought her cousin’s oyster business, Anchored Life Oyster Farm, three years ago.

“It was definitely a learning curve,” she said. But now, she goes out on the boat every day to tend her oysters in Stump Sound and New River.

“But I love it. I have a new appreciation for the ocean,” she said. “And it’s beautiful. I see dolphins. Sometimes I’m out there and I think ‘This is my office.'”

The business is really taking off this year, for her Top-Sea-Turvies and New’d Pirates. Although the oysters are the same species, many farmers name their selections for branding and to let customers know what they’re getting.

Holden Davanzo of Anchored Life Oyster Farm in Sneads Ferry, N.C. Photo Courtesy Anchored Life Oyster Farm

Schwab, for example, grows a variety he calls Seabirdies especially for Seabird restaurant and chef Dean Neff in downtown Wilmington. The chef and the farmer partnered with Mad Mole Brewing this Oyster Week to make a Seabirdie Oyster Gose, brewed with oysters (shells and meats), bitter orange and spiceberry.

Others new to oystering are James and Sarah Rushing Doss, of the newly renamed Rx Chicken & Oyster restaurant in Wilmington. They’re growing their own oysters, named after their dogs, with the help of James Hargrove and Middle Sound Mariculture, for when the restaurant reopens later this year. By the way, the couple also have their commercial fishing and dealer’s licenses, so they can serve fish they catch and spear themselves, including the invasive lionfish.

James and Sarah Rushing Doss of the newly renamed Rx Chicken & Oysters restaurant, have started their own oyster farm with the help of Middle Sound Mariculture. Photo Courtesy Rx Chicken & Oysters

The business isn’t an easy one, Harrison said. Oyster growers and harvesters have to deal with hurricanes and subsequent closures due to water quality concerns, as well as loss of product. She also said that it cost as estimated $20,000 per acre to start an oyster farm. But it’s encouraging to see a new generation of people entering the business.

“There’s definitely a demand,” Harrison said. “People want local seafood.”

Allison Ballard is the food and dining reporter at the StarNews. You can reach her at

by Anne Tate on October 5, 2022 | Reprinted from RAL Today

Local chefs Ashley Christensen, Coleen Speaks, Joe Rohrer + Sunny Gerhartweigh in on NC’s best oysters.

St. Roch’s daily oyster happy hour is from 4-6 P.M. (and all day tuesday). Photo courtesy of St. Roch’s Fine Oysters + Bar

Shell yeah — wild oysters are harvested along coastal NC from mid-October to the end of March, so that means it’s almost prime oyster season in Raleigh. We’re here to share pearls of wisdom from local chefs Ashley Christensen (AC Restaurants), Coleen Speaks (Hummingbird), Joe Rohrer (42nd St. Oyster Bar) + Sunny Gerhart (St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar)about what oysters to look out for around the City of Oaks.

“I think all NC oysters have unique qualities and really different, wonderful flavors, each truly telling of the specific waters and coastal environments from which they are harvested or cultivated,” Chef Ashley told RALtoday. “As long as they are fresh and skillfully shucked, you can’t go wrong.”

DYK that there is just one type of oyster found in NC? However, Crassostrea Viginica, AKA Eastern oysters, come in hundreds of varieties. Here are some of our local chefs’ favorites.

Chef recommendations

Core SounderLocals Seafood | A deep-cupped oyster of medium salinity with a sweet, slightly creamy finish. These highly recommended, cultivated oysters are available year-round.

Dukes of Topsail SoundN. Sea. Oyster Co. | “They are briny, plump, perfectly manicured oysters that remind me of swimming in the salty ocean,” Chef Sunny said. “They have an incredibly sweet, almost scallop-like flavor.”

Green GillLocals Seafood | Core Sounders sometimes get a specific microalgae bloom that gives them a blue-green tint. “It adds depth to their already great flavor,” Chef Joe said. Look for them in January and February.

Masonboro WildsShell’em Seafood Co. | “These oysters are hand harvested and selected in the wild, and they are deliciously briny due to their proximity to the jetty,” Chef Ashley said. “They have a nice deep cup and a silky firm texture.”

Tarheel TiderunnersLocals Seafood | These briny, buttery, and meaty oysters are grown in the Stump Sound and are available year-round.

Where to find them

Now you know what to look for when you’re at one of these six oyster hot spots.

How to eat them

First try the oyster raw, without anything added,” Chef Ashley said. “This is the purest way to taste what makes that oyster special, and to experience its definitive characteristics.”

“I love a lightly roasted oyster over coals served with a seasonal spicy mignonette,” Chef Coleen said.

Turning appetite into agritourism.

by Carrie Honaker on September 25, 2022 | Reprinted from Southern Living


Oysters tell stories. The narrative begins as each is pried open, shucked from its shell, and slid into a waiting mouth. There, you’ll taste hints of where it grew, how many times the farmer touched and tumbled it, the salinity of the water, food consumed, weather endured. All of it’s there, the story of the farmer, their life, their home, and the hours on the water tending their crop.

Oyster trails, a new leg of culinary travel, invite visitors to learn about the deep history of these rural, coastal communities, see working oyster farms, and sample the briny bivalves at restaurants who support them.

North Carolina Oyster Trail

In 2020, the North Carolina Oyster Trail launched, offering up farm tours, “voluntourism” activities to protect oyster habitats, and tasting opportunities. “Our interactive map shows options to visit seafood restaurants serving local oysters and oyster farm tours to see how North Carolina oysters are grown,” says Dr. Jane Harrison, coastal economics specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant. “You can visit an education organization like North Carolina Coastal Federation that’s dedicated to protecting and restoring our coastal environment. The oyster trail isn’t just about eating oysters—although that’s one of my favorite parts—there’s an ocean of possibilities.”

At Down East Mariculture, a mosaic mural by local artist LaNelle Davis adorns the side of the once condemned Willis Brothers Seafood building. The mural (based on a photograph) shows Lula Willis Fulcher, Rena Wade Piner, and Lela Thomas opening clams back in the 1950s. Davis hand-cut dishes contributed by families who worked at the clam house, and the shells on the wall were excavated from the property grounds.

The artwork embodies the deep history of Down East, a rural area once an economic hub. “When visitors stop here, I talk to them about the history of seafood processed here as early as 1939. Elmer Willis was ahead of his time—he received food science awards from NC State, provided all the clams for Heinz Soup and Campbell’s clam chowders after World War II. He was also one of the first to start blast freezing individual frozen food items, opening a whole new market. We have remnants of the liquid nitrogen room still onsite,” says Susan Hill, co-owner of Down East Mariculture.

Stops like Ghost Fleet Oyster Co. offer sunset boating excursions out to the farm augmented by sea stories about the historical importance of oysters to the coastal environment. “It’s a self-guided adventure that can go in 100 different directions. We talk about gear types, the challenges of oyster farming, how different salinities create flavors. We talk about merroir. We educate visitors to feel confident they have all the tools for a full oyster experience when they arrive at a restaurant on the trail,” says Cody Faison of Ghost Fleet Oyster Co.

The next stop could be PinPoint in Wilmington to sample what Chef Cameron Garvey cooks up with the Faison’s oysters, like the peach basil mignonette made with a white peach sour from a local brewery, or the baked oysters with pepper jelly, braised pork belly, and corn bread crumb. “During the lineup every day, I’ll pop a couple oysters so I can relate the tasting notes, size, shape, anything that helps servers talk to customers about them,” Garvey said.

Oyster plate at Seabird in Wilmington, N.C. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BAXTER MILLER

And if you happen to be there during Green Gill season, you’re in for a geographically rare treat. Oysters with green gills only happen in two places in the world: North Carolina and the clay ponds in Marennes-Oléron, France. Haslea osteria algae creates a vibrant gill in French fines de claires, and for a short period of colder months, that same delicate color occurs in some North Carolina oysters.

James Beard Foundation-nominated Chef Dean Neff at Seabird in Wilmington wants to give guests an experience, “…of where we live though oysters and some of the ingredients we put into the sauces, making it unique, but also familiar and accessible.” Neff serves the bivalves with a Champagne mignonette he augments with local, seasonal ingredients like green coriander from a farmer in Southport. He also crafts a cocktail sauce with a fermented pepper mash sambal that, depending on seasons, includes fruit like loquat, peach, or even plum.

Chef Neff ensures servers at Seabird are equipped to talk about the provenance of the oysters on the menu. Neff elaborated, “These farmers walk in the door, sometimes in the middle of service, right off of their lease with bags of oysters that were in the water hours before. That is exactly what oysters are supposed to be, a time capsule of the environment, pulled directly from the ocean, brought here for people to experience that specific location with its tides, amount of rainfall, husbandry. You know what you’re eating, where it’s coming from, who farmed them, and see that progression—it makes eating the oysters more meaningful.”

Virginia Oyster Trail

One state north, Virginia’s Oyster Trail features stops like Big Island Aquaculture in Hayes where visitors hear the history of Guinea Watermen, learn about the waterways, and handle the gear in between bites of raw and chargrilled oysters. Or you can opt for an experience organized around pairing local beer or wine and curated oyster preparations at restaurant trail stops through Taste Tidewater.

Spot local fisherman on the water. PHOTO: GABRIELA HERMAN

Virginia’s trail, the first in the Southeast, highlights the rural coastal communities through farm tours, lodging, outdoor adventure, art, and restaurants devoted to Virginia oysters. “We want to educate people about how important oysters are to our environment. For the Chesapeake Bay, every oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day, removing the excess nitrates, and helping to improve the water quality,” says Bruce Vogt, Virginia Oyster Trail President.

A unique aspect of this trail is the established tasting regions. Researchers from Virginia Tech University sampled oysters all over the state and identified tasting profiles for the eight coastal regions, much like wine terroir. Flavors range from mellow and buttery, to salty, to slight minerality, to sweet.

Georgia Oyster Trail

Moving south, Georgia is set to launch their Georgia Grown Trail 17 in fall 2022. This trail adds Gullah Geechee heritage to the oyster experience as it travels through the congressionally-designated national heritage corridor across farm tours, restaurants, and cultural hubs like the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum and Nature Center. According to Gullah Geechee Scholar and Trail President Dr. Patrick Holladay, the oyster trail will amplify Georgia’s sustainable seafood industry, as well as educate visitors on the concept of environmental stewardship, and the historic foodways of its coastal communities.

Soon visitors can explore historic seafood regions like Harris Neck and see family farms like E.L Mcintosh & Sons where generations have worked the water. They put the first farmed oysters in Georgia water in 2018. You may recognize Earnest Mcintosh Sr. from an episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Savannah native and James Beard Award winning chef Mashama Bailey spent time on the oyster farm exploring the legacies of African Americans in the Lowcountry.

“When you talk about a food system, you’re talking about people’s livelihoods, and understanding where food comes,” Holladay says.

Oyster trails provide a window into life along the Southeastern coast and an opportunity to sample the bounty produced by farms, artists, chefs, and Mother Nature.

by Michaela Abraham on Sept. 23, 2022 | Reprinted from NC Coastwatch

Oysters once were as popular as the fast-food burger is today. Since the late-1880’s, people have collected, consumed, and enjoyed oysters up and down the East Coast.

In North Carolina, the eastern or American oyster (Crassostrea virginica) lives in waters stretching the southern end of the Albemarle Sound to the sounds and estuaries bordering South Carolina. North Carolina is the only state that harbors both deep water reefs in the Pamlico Sound and low-depth reefs in intertidal waters, as well as reefs that run alongside the shorelines of our marshes.


People have harvested wild oysters off the coasts of North America for over 3,000 years.

Around 85% of oyster reefs worldwide have been demolished as a result of overexploitation. North Carolina’s original oyster stocks have now been reduced by approximately 95%, according to the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

Due to historic overharvesting and other environmental stressors, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) considers the eastern oyster to be a species of concern. Since 2020, 22 million bushels of cultch material — such as oyster shells and limestone marl — have been planted in order to create new oyster habitat, part of a century-long endeavor in the state.

Credit: Justin Kase Conder, © 2021 Justin Kase Conder.


The state’s Oyster Steering Committee is a non-regulatory board comprised of researchers, restoration specialists, coastal managers, permit officers, oyster growers, and educators. The committee has been responsible for leading revisions for the ongoing NC Oyster Blueprint Plan, which has expanded and built upon the state’s Fishery Management Plan for Oysters, the work of the Division of Water Resources’ Basin Planning Branch, and the North Carolina Strategic Plan for Mariculture.

With the expertise of partners like North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Sea Grant, and federal and state agencies, the Blueprint recommends strategies to ensure that N.C oysters can foster a productive coastal ecosystem and thriving oyster fishery and aquaculture industry.

In addition to the Blueprint, the North Carolina Strategic Plan on Shellfish Mariculture presented recommendations in 2018 to sustainably grow the state’s shellfish mariculture industry by supporting local shellfish growers. This plan set 2030 targets for the shellfish industry that included $100 million in value, $33 million in landings, and generating 1,000 new jobs.

North Carolina’s aquaculture industry also received national recognition by becoming the first state in the southeast to join NOAA’s National Shellfish Initiative. Shellfish farming has the potential to reduce pressures on wild oyster harvests and provide a consistent seafood source. A collaborative North Carolina Sea Grant project determined that in 2019 shellfish landings in the state generated over $27 million and provided 500+ jobs, with more than half of this economic impact coming from farmed oysters.

Restoring and protecting oyster populations — and growing enough oysters to meet market demand — requires thriving businesses, increased environmental stewardship, and awareness of our coastal resources. Not surprisingly, recommendations in the Strategic Plan for Shellfish Mariculture included a “North Carolina Oyster Trail.”

Katherine McGlade, Slash Creek Oyster Farm.


From craft beer to barbeque, culinary and beverage trails feature regional delicacies and provide opportunities for visitors to connect with local food producers. From its launch in 2020, the NC Oyster Trail has covered the state’s entire coast. North Carolina Sea Grant and North Carolina Coastal Federation administer the NC Oyster Trail, in partnership with the NC Shellfish Growers Association, to “provide experiences that help sustain and grow N.C. oysters, resulting in economic, environmental, and social benefits to the state’s seafood industry and coastal communities.”

The Trail includes over 75 members across the state that offer a wide variety of shellfish tourism experiences. Along the Trail, you can find seafood restaurants and markets, shellfish farm tours, recreational and educational activities, and special events highlighting N.C. oysters. “The Oyster Trail has been essential in connecting travelers, foodies, and outdoor adventure lovers to the magic of the North Carolina oyster,” says Jane Harrison, coastal economics specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant and lead coordinator of the Trail. displays an interactive map of where to eat local oysters or tour a shellfish farm. There are also several educational programs and volunteer opportunities to learn more about the eastern oyster’s importance to North Carolina’s coastal environment.

Here’s a sampling of just a few of the places to taste and learn more about our state’s unique oysters.

Oysters Carolina offers tours of their Carteret County farm.


Do you know where your seafood comes from? Hop on a boat and learn how we grow oysters in North Carolina. Smell that salt breeze and slurp down some of the most sustainable seafood on the planet.

Slash Creek Oyster Farm (Hatteras Island)

Katherine McGlade and husband Spurgeon Stowe’s Slash Creek Oyster Farm provides tours of their operation that are an hour and a half, beginning at the dock at Slash Creek Oyster House. Visitors learn about the equipment and their processes for growing oysters, then take the oyster boat (“The Half Shell”) for a 10-minute ride to their lease to see the different stages of oyster growth.

Roysters NC (Beaufort)

Roysters NC is a family-owned and operated oyster farm in Carteret County’s North River. Visitors can schedule a boat tour to visit a cluster of four shellfish farms in and around North River and Wards Creek, and bring-your-own-kayak tours also are available upon request. These excursions provide opportunities to explore the waters — and what grows in them — between Beaufort and Harkers Island.

Middle Sound Mariculture (Hampstead)

Middle Sound Mariculture grows oysters in Masonboro, Stump, and Topsail Sounds. Known for their salty, buttery, rich “Masonboro Pearls” — named after the farmer’s daughter, Pearl — Middle Sound Mariculture offers farm tours via Epic Excursions NC and sells oysters directly to visitors.

Middle Sound Mariculture, known for its salty, buttery “Masonboro Pearls.”


Our state’s oysters are available at a variety of markets and restaurants on the coast and inland, including these places on the NC Oyster Trail.

Locals Seafood (Durham and Raleigh)

Locals Seafood, a restaurant and fish market in Durham Food Hall and a soon-to-open establishment in east Raleigh, serves North Carolina oysters year-round, alongside a menu of cooked seafood dishes and a full bar. They have several seafood markets throughout the Triangle.

Native Prime Provisions (Cashiers)

Native Prime Provisions occupies the westernmost point on the NC Oyster Trail. They have a nine-seat chef tasting counter where they serve lunch and dinner, and they carry oysters from Sticky Bottom, Slash Creek, and Ocracoke Mariculture.

Seaview Crab Company (locations in the Wilmington area and inland)

Seaview Crab Company Kitchen & Deli’s seafood is fresh, hot, and affordable. Executive chef Brandon Stark prepares dishes with seafood from their market, and customers can order food to go or enjoy it at their outdoor seating area. Nationwide shipping is also available for all their retail products, including fresh seafood.

Oysters Carolina (New Bern)

Oysters Carolina offers farm-to-table, same-day delivery anywhere in North Carolina for free. Their award-winning oysters are consistently rated among the saltiest in the country. Although oyster farming is notoriously demanding, Oysters Carolina eschews mechanical devices; they use arm strength to lift hefty oyster cages. They also offer farm tours at their Carteret County location on request.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery (Wilmington)

Wrightsville Beach Brewery serves N.C. oysters from within 60 miles, whenever possible. They have special wine pairing recommendations based on the dish and the type of oyster. Menu items include po’ boy pizza with sauteed oysters, fried oysters over kimchi-spiced N.C. collards, and fried oyster po’ boys.

A delicacy at Wrightsville Beach Brewery.

Ocracoke Oyster Company (Ocracoke)

Ocracoke Oyster Company serves fresh Ocracoke Island Devil Shoals oysters harvested daily. They offer many varieties of baked and raw oysters, as well as fried, and oyster stout beer is available on tap.

Parley’s Sip & Steam (Washington)

Parley’s Sip & Steam offers a wide variety of prepared oysters: raw, steamed, or their house specialty oysters. Oysters Rockefeller, Parley Den oysters, and No Quarter oysters are just some of the locals’ favorites. Customers can eat their N.C. seafood with live music each weekend, as well as paired spirit tastings and charcuterie boards.

Saltbox Seafood Joint (Durham)

James Beard Award-winning chef Ricky Moore draws inspiration at Saltbox from classic American fish camps and waterside seafood shacks, with an emphasis on N.C. seafood. At his counter-service restaurant, the fish and shellfish options vary daily. A handwritten menu on a chalkboard tells of the day’s offerings.

Where the “oyster stout” flows: Ocracoke Oyster Company.


North Carolina oysters are available year-round. Wild oyster season begins October 15, but farmed oysters make it possible to enjoy oysters anytime. Here’s how to support a healthy coast and the livelihoods of our state’s watermen and women.

North Carolina Coastal Federation (Newport, Wanchese, Wrightsville Beach)

North Carolina Coastal Federation is a member-supported nonprofit organization focused on protecting and restoring North Carolina’s coastal waters. Their coastal locations provide opportunities to learn more about their living shoreline, water quality, and oyster restoration efforts, as well as opportunities to volunteer or become a Coastal Federation member.

North Carolina Estuarium (Washington)

The North Carolina Estuarium is an environmental education center located in Washington, a soundside community with a deep maritime heritage. The Estuarium provides extensive information about the importance of our state’s estuarine ecosystems and why we should protect them, including exhibits about the state’s oysters and oyster fishery.

Science by the Sea (Beaufort)

Science by the Sea provides eco-adventures with a choice of three modes of transportation: kayak, stand-up paddleboard, and a flat-bottomed bateau cruise. Tours depart from the historic Beaufort waterfront and visit the four islands in the Rachel Carson Reserve. Visitors can observe diverse habitats and estuarine creatures, including oysters, that dwell in these waters.

North Carolina Estuarium, an environmental education center in Washington.


Join the NC Oyster Trail October 10 to 16 to “shellebrate” the history, culture, economy, and ecology of oysters in our state.

Last year, Governor Roy Cooper officially declared North Carolina Oyster Week in a statewide proclamation.

Eighteen in-person and virtual events for the public provided opportunities to engage with oyster growers and harvesters, seafood restaurants, seafood retail markets, recreational outfitters, coastal conservation and education organizations, and seafood festivals.

Again this year, throughout October, a wide range of different events and programs will continue the shellebration. Visit for the complete list of festivities, more places to see on the Trail, and other resources. Follow the NC Oyster Trail on Facebook and Instagram.

The NC Oyster Trail

Seafood in Coastwatch

More about seafood from North Carolina Sea Grant

Michaela Abraham is a North Carolina Sea Grant community engaged intern who studies fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology at NC State University.

lead photo credit: Credit: Justin Kase Conder, © 2021 Justin Kase Conder.

by Kimberly Armstrong on August 28, 2022 | Reprinted from The Coastland Times

Original article published by N.C. Cooperative Extension, Dare County Center.

As the saying goes, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” And some might add that bold man must have been awfully hungry too! They might not be pretty, but these humble bivalves have been elevated to gourmet status and are consumed with gusto, paired with an ice-cold beer or a flute of champagne. Whether slurped raw in their own salty elixir, steamed, roasted, fried, or in a stew, they’re a culinary delight for the discerning (and adventurous) palate.

Katherine McGlade loves oysters. In fact, she likes them so much that she left her successful environmental consulting business to pursue oyster farming. Her company is Slash Creek Oysters, which she operates along with her husband, Spurgeon Stowe. “I had studied oysters, so I knew a bit about them,” she says. “And I thought there was a market for them that wasn’t being satisfied.” Add to that the fact that she had grown weary of having a desk job and was looking for a way to work outside.

That is how Katherine finds herself not heading to an office each morning but shoving off from the dock, steering her skiff through the shimmering waters of the Pamlico Sound, dazzled by sparkling sunbeams, in awe of an impossibly blue sky, and filling her lungs with tangy salt air. She reaches her five acre-oyster farm, blissfully aware that her days behind a desk are over, and her workday begins.

Oyster farming is mariculture – cultivating marine organisms in open water for food. And just like land-based farming, there’s a great deal of hard work and financial investment involved. Increased demand for oysters and depletion of wild oyster harvests have led to the popularity of oyster farming in North Carolina.

In the beginning, as Katherine explored the prospect of oyster mariculture, she reached out to established farmers. “They were all very generous with their time and with sharing their knowledge. It’s such a welcoming community!” She read an abundance of publications, reviewed academic research, examined step-by-step procedures, and utilized resources offered by North Carolina Sea Grant and UNC Wilmington. The Small Business and Technology Development Center helped with her business plan and assisted her in creating spreadsheets detailing cost, timelines, and projections. There was much to learn. “However,” she says, “at some point you just have to jump in and do it.”

She had a general idea of the area where she hoped to secure a lease permit (a lengthy process). She was aware of the pristine water quality and salinity of the Pamlico Sound, the distance from the mainland, and the lack of agricultural and storm runoff – all contributing to a superb location for oyster cultivation. So, when she happened upon an area tucked into a corner of Sandy Bay, off Hatteras Island, she knew that she had found that “sweet spot” and was eager to set up shop.

Meet FLUPSY. The FLoating UPweller SYstem is an essential piece of oyster farming equipment. It provides a protected environment for the oyster seed babies. Here the seeds are placed in silos with fine mesh screens as a pump constantly pulls seawater through the screens, delivering an all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty phytoplankton. They’ll remain here, receiving lots of care and attention, growing all the while, until their nursery days are over, and they graduate to the open-water of the farm.

Katherine uses mesh floating “grow-out” bags on her lease. The bags float on the surface allowing for adequate water flow and plentiful plankton, supplying the necessary nutrients for continued growth. Seaweed, algae, and barnacles attach to the bags potentially blocking water flow, so bags are regularly flipped to expose these organisms to air and light, reducing buildup. The bags are periodically emptied and pressure-washed as well. 

As the oysters grow, they are sorted for size and taken for a spin in the tumbler which breaks off the edge of the lip of the shell. This action promotes stronger, more uniformly shaped oysters and helps develop a deeper cup, promoting meatiness, and making them easier to shuck.

There are slow growers and fast growers, but it generally takes a year for the oysters to become adults. Katherine grows triploid oysters and because they’re sterile they don’t expend energy reproducing during the summer months (this is what causes fertile oysters to be thin and watery). As a result, they grow to market size faster and don’t lose body weight, remaining firm and plump. No more worrying about that pesky “R” month rule! These bivalves can be appreciated year-round.

Once harvested, the oysters are cleaned, packaged, and loaded into a refrigerated van, delivered on that day or no later than the next day. Slash Creek oysters are available in several Outer Banks restaurants and seafood retail shops.

Just as the taste of wine is influenced by the soil and climate in which grapes are grown (called terroir), the oyster’s distinct flavor reflects where it was grown (merroir). Slash Creek oysters benefit from an infusion of salty ocean water from Hatteras Inlet which is balanced by the briny waters of the Pamlico Sound. Katherine and her customers believe Slash Creek’s plump oysters with their clean, salty taste are the best. “There is much satisfaction derived from taking something from seed and growing a tangible product,” she says. “It’s rewarding to watch the oysters grow and to provide something to people that brings them pure joy.”

Oyster farming is labor intensive, dirty, stressful, and influenced by unpredictable and uncontrollable situations, such as storms, disease, and failed seed crops. “I’m filthy at the end of the day,” says Katherine. “And some days are so cold on the water, I feel like my fingers are freezing. But then there are other days on the water that are magical, and on those days, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.”

One might say the world is her oyster.

© 2023 NC Oyster Trail.