North Carolina Sea Grant
Coastwatch Currents

Coastwatch Currents

October 29, 2015 | Rebecca Nagy


Posted Oct. 29, 2015

Updated Nov. 2, 2015

With wild harvest season in full swing this fall, some oyster growers are looking ahead, thanks to the North Carolina Shellfish Siting Tool.

Just ask Tim Holbrook, who is among those who used the tool to select a productive site to rear his first crop of farm raised oysters. Last week he moved from planning to action when he stocked the first batch of oyster seed into culture gear located on his new farm, Masonboro Reserve Oyster Co.

A few hundred thousand 6 mm oyster seeds in nursary bags. Photo by Tim Holbrook.

Tim Holbrook is growing out several hundred thousand oyster seeds in nursery bags. Photo by Tim Holbrook.

In a story for the Autumn issue of Coastwatch magazine, Holbrook discussed his process of selecting a lease site using the online tool. On Oct. 26, Holbrook noted on the North Carolina Sea Grant Facebook page that he had planted seeds on his new farm that day. In a separate email, Holbrook said he planned to test several grow-out methods.

In addition to his updates on social media, Holbrook’s efforts also were featured in StarNews Online. The story explained that his lease had been approved by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

The siting tool, initially developed through research funded by North Carolina Sea Grant with ongoing refinements from University of North Carolina Wilmington, gives users access to valuable data to better inform their decision on where to locate their culture operations.

“I had a tremendous amount of information at my fingertips to select the location,” Holbrook noted in Coastwatch. He had access to a variety of data such as salinity, mean water depth at low tide, water quality and presence of submerged aquatic vegetation.

“To be able to fly in from a 20,000-foot view to a view that is 20 feet by 20 feet and also see the orthoimagery and all the details is something you could never do in a boat,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook identified the location near Masonboro Island within the boundary of the Masonboro Island component of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and the National Estuarine Research Reserve. He submitted a request for a lease site to DMF earlier this year, which was approved with mutually agreed upon conditions.

“It is always a pleasure to work with and see new shellfish growers contributing to the development of this segment of our state’s expanding aquaculture industry,” notes Chuck Weirich, Sea Grant’s marine aquaculture specialist based in Morehead City. “The shellfish siting tool is a great resource for both potential and established producers. It will continue to assist in the development of the industry.”

Holbrook’s operation is just one sign of aquaculture’s growth in North Carolina. In other news:

John Holbrook, Tim's father, and friend "Oyster Al" Smeilus stand near oyster nursary bags in the water.

John Holbrook, Tim’s father, and friend “Oyster” Al Smeilus check out the new site. Photo by Tim Holbrook.

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