SHELLFISH TOOK HARD HIT FROM HURRICANE FLORENCE
Shellfish took hard hit from Hurricane Florence, namely the oyster industry in North Carolina.
Hurricane Florence was a powerful and long-lived Cape Verde hurricane that caused severe damage in the Carolinas in September 2018, primarily as a result of freshwater flooding.
According to the North Carolina Sea Grant, close to $10 million was lost due to the storm. The losses included not only the oyster grow but also equipment used to harvest.
Evan Gadow, with Three Little Spats Oyster Company, says most of their oysters in bottom cages made it through the storm, but they lost a few of their floating cages and also saw a 25 percent increase in mortality rate the next couple of months.
Heavy rain from the hurricane caused salinity in the water to drop to harmful and potentially lethally low levels. Adult oysters weren’t as affected, even though many suffered severe stress which will lead to death of the organism.
Young, baby oysters and larvae died due to the conditions. The extra water brought runoff downstream into oyster farms, some of which were contaminated. The extra sediment also buried and suffocated the oysters, causing them to die.
“What the farmers lost for this year’s harvest is one thing but what’s really bad about it is, they had a lot of seed oysters, small oysters, in the aquaculture, and they might have lost a lot of next year’s harvest so that’s a big concern right now,” said Troy Alphin, UNCW senior research associate and shellfish biologist.
Some farmers lost up to 80 percent of their grow. James Hargrove, owner of Middlesound Mariculture Oyster Company, says he lost 25,000 oysters out of his crop as well as equipment. He says it took 10 days after the storm to clean and pull up the cages and flipped over gear.