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Coastal Federation partners with COA to help protect the coast

The northeast office of the North Carolina Coastal Federation hosted the welding students from the College of The Albemarle (Manteo campus) on Friday, November 8 to celebrate a new addition to their site.

This time last year, the Coastal Federation, located in Wanchese, started looking for someone to help they build an oyster cooker. Every year, the members of the federation take a trip to Hatteras to partake in the Hatteras Island Oyster Roast. “We’ve been doing that for six or seven years now,” Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator, said.

“For our region, this event is our biggest fundraiser for our office each year,” Hallas said.  The oyster roast has grown in participation year after year, and the federation had been borrowing an oyster cooker for the event. Hallas and the team decided it was time for a new one to accommodate all the guests.

After meeting several welders and receiving various quotes, the team came across the welding instructor for COA, Jeff Spear. They pitched the idea of a potential oyster cooker to Spear and it became a class project.

The Coastal Federation supplied the welding students with all the materials needed to weld together the oyster cooker. After a year, the finished product was presented to the federation.

Oysters are of the utmost importance to the water quality. The Coastal Federation, along with all the other organizations whose goal it is to keep the waters clean, aims to protect the oyster species.

“We have lots of natural filters that the environment uses to protect itself,” Hallas told the COA students after they had arrived for lunch. “Including native plants, the shorelines and marsh grasses, estuaries and oysters.” Oysters, in order to survive, breathe in water through their internal gills and then push that water back out. This process naturally filters and cleans the water.

Due to oysters being pertinent to water quality, the federation has taken the liberty of collecting as many as they can to promote and advocate for healthy waters. Leslie Vegas, coastal specialist, is currently working on shell-recycling projects in the area.

Last year, the state lost its funding for shell recycling. All public drop-off sites were removed. “We’re now working to fill in that gap by securing some of these public drop-off points again,” Vegas said. There are now less sites than before, but every little bit counts at this point.

Due to the lack of funding and the small staff, the Coastal Federation is always on the hunt for volunteers to help with their daily projects. “We partner a lot with local restaurants,” Hallas said. “We need volunteers to attend our restaurants events to talk with people about the importance of these oysters.”

By partnering with the local businesses, the federation is able to fundraise and bring awareness to these water quality issues. Volunteers help pick up buckets of oyster shells that the restaurants collect and bring them back to the federation’s collection site.

Because these fundraising events are essential to the livelihood of the federation, the students contributed to a much higher cause. After learning about how beneficial their work was to the team, the students, their instructors and the members of the federation all sat down to enjoy an oyster and shrimp lunch together.

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