The North Carolina Shellfish Siting Tool

Picture of Siting ToolThe North Carolina Shellfish Siting Tool

This tool, created and maintained by the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), is an interactive decision-support tool for the North Carolina coastline that will assist new or current growers in siting new or expanding shellfish operations by providing a simple tool to assess conditions based on existing datasets. The tool is designed to provide information to help potential shellfish growers determine site feasibility and help them identify potential risks and long-term suitability for particular areas. This project is a data visualization tool providing information on data specifically related to shellfish aquaculture including salinity, bottom type, depth soundings, shellfish growing area classifications, boat access areas, surrounding land cover and current shellfish growing operations.

Project Objectives

Promote shellfish aquaculture and expand the industry in North Carolina by:

  • Increase access to, and knowledge of, publically available datasets.
  • Reduce time involved in selecting an aquaculture site location.
  • Help streamline the shellfish bottom lease site selection process by providing an overview of likely sites in a shellfish growing area.

Project Background

Shellfish aquaculture in North Carolina is a small, yet traditionally important industry to coastal communities, providing locally grown clams and oysters and supplemental income. Despite an increase in seafood demand and efforts by individual growers, acreage under lease and total number of leases has remained relatively constant in recent years. According to the 2007 USDA census of agriculture, 85 farms reported sales of cultured product, yet production from North Carolina represented only 1.1% of the total value for all shellfish produced along the East Coast. While no single issue appears to have limited the growth of the industry, current growers and other stakeholders have cited several obstacles in obtaining a lease:

  1. Lack of knowledge about the industry
  2. Lack of information regarding feasible site locations
  3. Trouble identifying growing areas with long-term suitability
  4. Regional and local restrictions on water body use independent of water quality and bottom-lease criteria (moratoriums)
  5. Uncertain operational and start-up costs that may inhibit or interfere with the ability to secure a loan
  6. Potential conflicts with other user groups and enforcement rules

This program seeks to increase shellfish aquaculture in North Carolina coastal waters by providing potential growers with greater access to critical datasets, addressing issues 2, 3, and 4.

The Siting Tool Map

Siting Tool Map

For more information about the tool, layers, or data
Please contact Troy Alphin: 910-962-2395,