High levels of fecal bacteria have prompted state environmental officials to close some coastal and inland waters to harvesting oysters, clams and mussels. The 2,450 acres stretching across eight counties will be off-limits until further notice, state environmental officials announced.
The affected counties are Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender, Onslow, Carteret, Craven, Pamlico and Hyde.
The bacteria comes from human and animal waste that enters the stormwater, which then flows into the harvest areas. Over the past several years, above average rainfall along the coast has washed that waste into the water. The cumulative effects of that runoff emerged in recent testing that showed bacterial levels have exceeded safe levels.
In 2016, coastal precipitation was more than 15 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office. In 2015, the coast was soaked as well, with 14 inches of rain above average.
Shellfish harvesting closures are common, though. And many of the prohibited areas eventually reopen. Last year, NC DEQ made 53 proclamations of harvest area closures, compared with 100 for re-openings.
The shellfish industry is key to North Carolina’s economy. In 2014, the commercial oyster harvest generated $4.5 million in revenue; clam sales exceeded $2 million in 2012. That same year, revenue for all shellfish harvested in North Carolina reached nearly $42 million.
Below is the list of the most recent closings: