Local scientists hope over 14,000 pounds of oysters put into local waters will help environment, economy

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SNEADS FERRY, N.C. (WNCT) — Just one oyster is able to filter 50 gallons of water in one day. After putting in 14,000 pounds of them into New River this week, local scientists believe the effects will help the environment and the economy as well. 

“If each one of these oysters grows to adulthood, the filtration capacity — if that’s assuming 50 gallons per day per oyster — you’re talking about upwards of 700 million gallons of water filtered per day,” said marine scientist James Hargrove. 

Hargrove said that efforts like this will benefit the river in the long run. 

“Oysters are a filter-feeding organism,” said Hargrove. “So what they do when they’re eating is they’re pulling algae and other materials from the water and eating that and by doing that, they’re cleaning the water.” 

Not only are they filtering the water, but they’re also giving habitat for other marine life.  

“They’re also providing habitat for other critters such as shrimp, crabs and fish, so essentially they’re a keystone species that’s going to provide habitat and filtration for the water,” said Hargrove. 

The oysters came from Williston, a small location in Carteret County. This was all a collaborative effort between oyster farmers, the Division of Marine Fisheries and the North Carolina Sea Grant. 

“The idea is that these will grow a reef and they will be able to spawn and reproduce and help see the area with more oysters,” said Hargrove. 

Clutch planting biologist Abby Williams said all of this will have an impact on the local economy as well. 

“Eventually they will be able to be harvested by oystermen, so that will be money going back into the local economies and feeding the people,” said Williams. 

Williams also said they have built reefs like this in the past to help the environment.  

“We do cultch planted reefs, which are reefs that are built with small pieces of generally limestone marl, sometimes we’ll do them with oyster shells,” said Williams. 

She estimates the reef will be ready for harvesting in about a year. Until then, the oysters will be doing their thing. 

“It’s been a lot of people working together to sort of make this happen, and it’s been pretty good so far, it’s been pretty successful,” said Williams. 

Williams pointed out they are going to see how the current reefs are doing before they decide if they’re going to continue with this project in other locations.  

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