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Coastal and Marine Aquaculture

North Carolina Sea Grant highlights a variety of careers in marine aquaculture. Also known as mariculture, the industry focuses on the cultivation of plants and animals that live in saltwater.

North Carolina has a growing marine aquaculture — or mariculture — industry including soft crabs, clams, oysters and finfish.

Shellfish mariculture, in particular, has seen tremendous interest in recent years. North Carolina Sea Grant has been a leader in research and outreach on these topics. In fact, we are a key partner in the new North Carolina Shellfish Initiative, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state agencies, and the N.C. Coastal Federation.

The links on this page will connect you to resources and partners that will be of interest to new and existing growers, as well as anyone who is interested in shellfish mariculture.

Here are some links for those looking to get started with shellfish aquaculture.

For more questions, contact Eric Herbst, coastal aquaculture specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant,

DMF Shellfish Lease Program

The Shellfish Lease and Aquaculture Program at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has created an interactive mapping tool to assist the public in finding information about shellfish leases in North Carolina.

Contact North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, 

USDA Farm Service Agency Programs

UNCW NC Shellfish Aquaculture Siting Tool

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Wilmington developed the North Carolina Shellfish Siting Tool for current and future shellfish growers. A National Sea Grant Strategic Initiative supported this effort by awarding funding to Sea Grant.

Shellfish growers in North Carolina now have data that allow them to select locations with the most potential before choosing areas to lease. This GIS-based site-selection tool assists growers in identifying promising bottom-lease locations for their aquaculture operations. Users can search based on important factors for locating a shellfish culture operation — presence/absence of shellfish, submerged aquatic vegetation, current leases, boat access areas, and salinity.

Contact Troy Alphin at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, 910-962-2395,

UNCW Shellfish Research Hatchery

Contact Ami Wilbur, at University of North Carolina Wilmington, 910-962-2389,

Carteret Community College

Contact David Cerino, at Carteret Community College, 252-222-6114,

These organizations support individuals involved in marine aquaculture.

N.C. Aquaculture Association

This is a private nonprofit corporation formed in 1991. It provides support through promotion, marketing and other beneficial acts to strengthen, expand and diversify the freshwater and marine aquaculture industries in North Carolina. Each February, the association hosts the N.C. Aquaculture Development Conference.

N.C. Shellfish Growers Association

Founded in 1995, this organization represents the interests of those involved in the shellfish industry. Its members include shellfish farmers, hatchery operators, seafood dealers, educators, researchers, government regulators and service providers.

East Coast Shellfish Growers Association

The association represents more than 1,000 shellfish farmers from Maine to Florida. They produce sustainable farmed shellfish while providing thousands of jobs in rural coastal towns.

Shellfish Seed

To purchase seed produced in North Carolina, contact Jimmy Morris of Millpoint Aquaculture in Sea Level, 252-342-7452,

To purchase seed outside of North Carolina, use the 2016 East Coast Shellfish Hatchery and Nursery List.

Shellfish Gear and Equipment

To purchase shellfish gear and equipment, contact these companies.

Sea Grant Contacts

Eric Herbst, coastal aquaculture specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant,

Frank Lopez, extension director,  North Carolina Sea Grant, 919-515-3012,
Lopez is an initial point of contact for general information on all aspects of marine aquaculture development in the state.

Barry Nash, seafood technology and marketing specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant, 252-222-6337,

Jane Harrison, coastal economies specialist, North Carolina Sea Grant, 919-513-0122,

Information and Resources

Learn more about Sea Grant’s research and outreach on mariculture topics.

Here are a few stories from our Coastwatch magazine:

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