Public waters access in eastern North Carolina
There is nothing like the sprawling inland seas of North Carolina, where 5 estuarine sounds sprawl for 2 million acres. Early explorers thought that Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds were so vast that surely they must be hidden oceans, across which lay the riches of the Orient. But North Carolinians today know that the true treasure of these coasts and sounds lay in the throngs of waterfowl that winter in these brackish waters and rich marshes, in the richness of oyster beds, where redfish spawn and feed.
Those treasures today are beleaguered on many fronts, from pollution to habitat destruction to hardened shorelines. And as more and more demands are being placed on the wildlife resources of our sounds and shores, NC BHA is working to ensure that public access to public trust waters remain strong.
Two recent events underscore the importance and complexity of these issues. Efforts to grow North Carolina’s shellfish aquaculture industry can have huge benefits to water quality and local economies. But the state must be very careful as it plans for and manages this growth. The leasing of public waters for private shellfish aquaculture is a growing enterprise, and NC BHA is watching carefully to make sure that growth in oyster and clam farming doesn’t impact the state’s vaunted public waters for boating, fishing, hunting, and general recreation.
Similarly, the state’s reputation as a waterfowling hotspot reaches back for generations. But looking forward, North Carolina must maintain its position as a place where public marshes and waters are inviting to duck and goose hunters who wish to share in their public resources. Efforts to limit access can be hyper-local, but all public waters belong to the people of North Carolina. NC BHA is actively monitoring the landscape of public access to waters and wetlands for the sporting public, and will engage other stakeholders to advocate for increased, not decreased, access to public resources.