North Carolina-based documentary highlights aquaculture industry

Published on
July 16, 2021

A new documentary based in North Carolina that premiered on 14 July showcases the state’s burgeoning aquaculture industry.

The documentary, titled “Fish Farms,” was created by WRAL, an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Raleigh, North Carolina, and was sponsored by the state’s Farm Bureau. Throughout the video, multiple types of local aquaculture are harvested – including trout farming, crawfish farming, oyster farming, and a sturgeon farm that uses a recirculating aquaculture system.

The documentary, North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation Director of Specialty Crops Debbie Hamrick told SeafoodSource, wasn’t created by the farm bureau itself, but was seen as an opportunity to promote the state’s accomplishments in the industry.

“We decided it was a good opportunity to support aquaculture, and especially aqua protein,” Hamrick said.

The industry in North Carolina, Hamrick said, tends to fly under the radar, without a lot of common knowledge about how extensive it is.

The state’s aquaculture industry has an annual revenue of USD 60 million (EUR 50.7 million), and the state is second only to Idaho in terms of trout production by volume, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Seafood Marketing Specialist John Aydlett told SeafoodSource.

In addition to trout, Marshallberg Farm in North Carolina is the only producer of Russian sturgeon and Osetra caviar in the U.S., according to the company’s website.

The reason for the diversity and volume of aquaculture production in the state, Hamrick said, starts in the ‘90s.

“Back in the 1990s, our agricultural production went through a lot change. We knew that tobacco was going to be a crop that was going to go down in importance in the state, so the state was proactive at the governmental level,” she said. “Aquaculture was one of those types of agricultural production that the state of North Carolina promoted, and they put their shoulder to it.”

The state hired experts and created programs to help businesses establish aquaculture operations, a move that has had some traditional farmers switch over. The documentary highlighted a Beaufort County, North Carolina farm named Carolina Fisheries that went from traditional crops to hybrid striped bass.

Carolina Fisheries Owner Lee Brothers said in the documentary that in 1985, he lost USD 85,000 (EUR 71,944) on traditional crops due to a drought.

“I said it might be time to look for something different,” he said.

While North Carolina is far from the largest aquaculture producer in the U.S. by value – NOAA data indicates states several other states reach higher totals – it’s still a growing part of the local industry.

“It’s a great best kept secret, not a lot of people know how extensive the industry is,” Hamrick said. “It’s very diversified across North Carolina.”  

Photo courtesy or Eric Krouse/Shutterstock

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