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Natural Awakenings Coastal Carolinas

Brutal Season for Farmed Oysters off Our Coast

Researchers and shellfish growers state that this season has been rife with mass oyster die-offs. Exact triggers for these high mortality rates are highly variable and are the subject of ongoing research.

Mark Ciesielski, a doctoral candidate in the Noble Lab in the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, in Morehead City, is part of a team of researchers from multiple universities investigating the complex factors behind this negative trend. He says that this season had been brutal for farmed oysters, with big losses across the board at his North Carolina study sites.

Dr. Tal Ben-Horin is an aquatic pathologist and head of the North Carolina State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology’s Shellfish Pathology Laboratory, one of the partners involved in the project. His lab in Morehead City studies pathogen and disease impacts on shellfish aquaculture and has been working to understand the root causes behind these mortality events, wherein seemingly healthy oysters suddenly die.

The ultimate goal is to increase the understanding of why this is happening so that growers can gain insights into how to make their oysters more resilient in the future.

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