On December 30, 1822, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law titled An Act to Prevent the Destruction of Oysters, and for Other Purposes, in the State that restricted oyster harvest gear and prohibited the export of North Carolina oysters to other states.
It was the first statewide law governing marine fisheries, and it was the beginning of state marine fisheries management in North Carolina. And, with numerous subsequent laws passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it eventually led to the establishment of what is now the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries kicked off its celebration of the 200th anniversary of this law on December 1 with a staff gathering at the Carteret County Civic Center. David Bennett, curator of maritime history at the N.C. Maritime Museum shared the history of fisheries management in North Carolina and staff heard anecdotes from two retired Marine Patrol officers who worked in the 1960s.
“Fisheries management has come a long way since 1822, and we are excited to celebrate this milestone,” said Division Director Kathy Rawls. “Throughout the year, we will be sharing some of our history through school programs, social media, and videos of interviews with retired staff about what fisheries management was like in the ‘old days.’”
Department of Environmental Quality Chief Deputy Secretary Tim Watkins read a Governor’s Proclamation designating December 2022 as Marine Fisheries Management and Conservation Month, in celebration of this 200th Anniversary.
Division staff were also joined by partners from Carteret Community College, N.C. Sea Grant, and the N.C. Maritime Museum, as well as members of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission.
In the coming weeks and months, the Division of Marine Fisheries will announce a schedule for historical presentations it will host in partnership with the Maritime Museum, showing the development of different aspects of marine fisheries in North Carolina.
The celebration will culminate in a Bicentennial Jamboree planned for June 10, 2023 at the Division of Marine Fisheries Headquarters in Morehead City, with additional tours and demonstrations offered at Carteret Community College, where the public can learn about fisheries management and conservation. There will be food trucks, informational booths, games, demonstrations, and tours.