State law has changed, and a Standard Commercial Fishing License with a shellfish endorsement is now required to mechanically harvest shellfish.
Previously, a Commercial Shellfish License could also be used for this activity, but that license now only covers hand harvest methods.
Mechanical harvest of oysters involves the use of dredges, stick rakes or other rakes towed by engine-powered vessels or the use of mechanically-operated tongs. Studies have shown excessive use of these harvest methods can damage oyster beds. The state only allows mechanical harvest in specific deep-water areas where hand harvest is impractical, and monitors the harvesting to protect the oyster beds.
The license requirement change was passed by the N.C. General Assembly as part of the state budget bill.
A person who works as a member of the crew of a vessel engaged in a mechanical shellfish operation under the direction of a person who holds a valid SCFL with a shellfish endorsement is not required to hold a shellfish license.
Mechanical oyster harvest season opened November 11 with a 15-bushel per fishing operation per day limit. Harvest will be allowed from sunrise to 4 p.m. weekdays.