Shellfish Gardeners of North Carolina 

SGNC promotes the culture of shellfish, especially oysters, by individuals using underdock oyster gardens...Remember:OYSTERS = CLEANWATER

We think it is important to restore oyster habitat because oysters clean water, provide habitat for the young of many species and could again be a major moneymaker for commercial oyster gatherers. Our selective harvesting can also improve the oyster gene pool. We work to inform fishermen, community members and officials of the special properties and needs of North Carolina Shellfish.
We meet locally to inform and assist each other as we work to restore oyster habitat. We cooperate in the provision of oyster larvae, spat and supplies. We help train new members so they can become under-dock oyster gardeners.


606 Emerald Dr. Emerald Isle NC 28594 us

Getting Started
So you want to be an oyster gardener! 

Congratulations on your decision to help restore the quality of North Carolina’s coastal waters.

We recommend you join the Shellfish Gardeners of North Carolina (SGNC).
SGNC provides training workshops, ongoing support and advice, can help you gather or make the necessary under-dock materials, and can give helpful tips on filling out the required PERMIT application. Under-dock oyster gardening in North Carolina requires a permit from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries. There is no charge for the permit.

Here is how to become an under-dock oyster gardener:
1. Read the on-line manual to learn about shellfish gardening (or participate in a workshop sponsored by SGNC).

2. Take (and pass) the quiz.

3. Complete the application.  You will need to include documentation of your ownership and location of your dock,       develop a storm plan and post appropriate dock signage.

After you’ve received your permit, you will need to build or purchase a structure that will hang under your dock; this is where your growing oysters will live. The point of hanging them in the water column is that they grow faster and do not get covered over with silt. Materials are available from a number of sources and gardeners. A good description can be found in the UDOC Manual located at Sources and additional information are also provided. Then, you’ll be ready to obtain spat (baby oysters). >>>> It is important (required by law?) that you use only the native Crassostrea virginicus and that it be from a certified North Carolina source.<<<<  Be aware that growing oysters under your dock does require some continued maintenance to ensure their optimum health. Again, you’ll find great support and camaraderie as a member of the Shellfish Gardeners of N.C.


Oysters Clean Water a mature oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.
·          Oysters Provide Habitat  The young of many species seek shelter and protection in oyster beds. 
·          Oyster Spat is Distributed in the water so that oyster beds may flourish and commercial oyster gatherers will have more product to sell.
·          BEST OF ALL, gardeners will notice the oyster which grows large and fast or lives longer. That oyster will go back to the gene pool! We will work to improve Crassostrea Virginica, the native oyster. 

Crassostrea Virginica is in extreme decline in North Carolina. In the northern and central parts of the state only one to two percent of the historic population still exists and there is not enough larvae and substrate in the water to promote natural regeneration. 

The Shellfish Gardeners of NC organized to promote the culture of shellfish, and particularly oysters, by individuals using under-dock oyster gardens. Citizen oyster gardens have proved very successful elsewhere. 
Legislation was passed in 2004 enabling N.C residents to participate in under-dock oyster gardening in open waters. (Waters clean enough to allow harvest and human consumption.) 

Gardeners who live in areas where waters are closed (not clean waters) grow oysters on bottom and encourage reef restoration to make the waters clean again.

 SGNC’s Mission:
·          To help restore the health of north Caroling waterways and coastal waters for everyone by promoting the practice of shellfish gardening by private citizens and groups.
·          To create conditions conducive to participation, partnerships and relevant research in shellfish gardening and shellfish health.

SGNC’s Vision:
·          Restored, sustainable and disease-resistant shellfish populations.
·          Improved water quality.
·          Restored biodiversity.
·          An environmentally aware and active public.

·          Community and individual participation in shellfish gardening.
·          Under-dock oyster gardening in open and closed areas.

Workshops are presented along the coast. Most are geared to novice oyster gardeners. This Web page serves as a source of up to date information. A Master Oyster Gardener program is anticipated in the near future. 

We are partners with the Carteret Community College Aquaculture Program.