HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. — If it seems like everywhere you go people are talking about oysters, that's because October 15 is the start of oyster season in North Carolina.
The week leading up to the start of oyster season celebrated Oyster Week and the many ways that oysters are essential to North Carolina's well-being.
What You Need To Know
October 15 kicks off oyster season in North Carolina
Oysters are essential to the history, economy, habitat and restaurants in the state
The North Carolina Coastal Federation uses recycled oyster shells to build living shorelines
These living shorelines protect the coast from erosion and restore marsh habitats
“N.C. Oyster Week started several years back to kick off the oyster season as really a way to bring awareness and education to all that oysters have to give us,” said Bonnie Mitchell, the coastal education coordinator for the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Oysters are more than a tasty treat. They are also essential to the history, culture, economy and ecology of the state. Every part of an oyster can be valuable in some small way.
Mitchell started working for the N.C. Coastal Federation three years ago, but she's been a volunteer for even longer than that. She says recycled oyster shells are the key to building up living shorelines and protecting the coast from erosion. The N.C. Coastal Federation has put together projects that use recycled oyster shells to rebuild marsh habitats along the coast.
On Monday, they hosted a shoreline monitoring and clean-up event at Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve in Holly Ridge, North Carolina to kick off Oyster Week.
They had volunteers place recycled oyster shells in decomposable bags. Volunteers then stacked the bags off shore to create an oyster reef that will break up wave energy and prevent erosion.
They also helped monitor and identify the different species growing and living in the marsh to test how far along the habitat restoration has progressed.
Mitchell says the project has been a huge success. When the Coastal Federation bought the land 17 years ago, it was a badly eroded beach. Since then, volunteers have restored the oyster reefs and planted marsh grass. Now the preserve has come back to life.
Over 100 volunteers came out to lend a hand in restoring oyster reefs and rebuilding the shoreline on Monday.
“The fact that they're going that extra mile to restore and protect these oysters means a lot to us and a lot to the community,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell says her most important message is to ask people to recycle their oyster shells. In fact, it’s illegal to throw the shells away. You can visit the N.C. Coastal Federation website to find the nearest recycling location.