10 major facts about seafood from NC Seafood Summit 2023


From heritage seafood recipes, why seafood matters and seafood dinner ideas to how commercial fishers are working to help scientists and the environment, there was much to learn at NC Catch Summit 2023 . Here are 10 major takeaways you should know from the conference that happened March 20 at Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head.

Heritage seafood
recipes matter

Commercial fishing family heritage recipes are a cherished part of North Carolina history. Access to the local seafood that cooks always use makes the dishes special. “This was the best dinner,” Michaux Waughtel said on Facebook. Waughtel was one of 100 people who attended the Outer Banks Seafood Feast Fundraising Dinner for NC Catch. The dinner followed NC Catch Summit 2023 at Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head. Local cooks prepared traditional fishing family dishes like hard crab stew with “pie bread” dumplings, deep-fried fish cakes and molasses pudding. “Last night was one of the best evenings I've spent in a long time,” said attendee Kathy Sparrow Martin.

Hard Crab Stew

Hard Crab Stew with "pie bread" dumplings.

Family farmers & fishers
must work together

Farmers and commercial fishers stand together as America’s essential food producers. No farmers, no fishers, no food. NC Catch Summit 2023 keynote speaker David Senter, an important player in the development of Farm Aid, promised that the American Agriculture Movement, which he chairs, will support NC Catch efforts to keep local seafood on the table. Hear excerpts from Senter's talk on our Facebook page.

Future is bright

The number of young people entering North Carolina’s commercial fishing industry is declining in the face of many challenges. But young entrepreneurs press ahead, leading the seafood industry’s future.

Young Fisherman Worth Elliott 2023

Commercial fisherman Worth Elliott.

Not just the usual
shrimp & flounder

People told him it would never work, but chef Ricky Moore put lesser-known fish like croakers on the menu and served them “fried-hard” until they were super crunchy at Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham anyway. Moore thought it was important to share the Black heritage North Carolina cooking he grew up with in New Bern. Since opening his restaurant, the NC Catch Chef Ambassador has won a James Beard Award and has seen public interest growing in seafood beyond the usual shrimp and flounder. Moore has served spots, mullets and ribbon fish at Saltbox. Each February, he features special menus that celebrate Black History in seafood.

Basnights Crab Ladies Summit 2023

Cousins Carol Haywood and Charlotte
Dixon prepared traditional Outer Banks
hard crab stew at the Outer Banks Seafood
Feast, a fundraiser for NC Catch the night
of the NC Catch Summit 2023.

Good science depends
on commercial fishers

Commercial fishers play a proactive role in fisheries management and science. For many years Wanchese-based Captain Jimmy Ruhle and his son have participated in the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s trawl sampling project best known as NEAMAP (NorthEast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program). “Every one of the VIMS scientists are top notch,” Captain Jimmy said. “They recognized they can utilize our expertise for better data collection."

Kathy Rawls Summit 2023

Kathy Rawls, N.C. Division of Marine
Fisheries director at the 2023 summit.

You must be involved

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has been working hard in 2023 to increase public awareness and involvement in the fisheries regulatory process. As NCDMF director Kathy Rawls told the NC Catch Summit 2023 audience, “It’s a missed opportunity when the public does not get involved.” Their voices absolutely do matter, she said. One way to stay informed is to follow the agency’s new social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Facts tell the real
sustainable seafood story

The owner of one of North Carolina’s most-trusted seafood markets, Ryan Speckman of Locals in Durham, started out as a fisheries biologist concerned about the impact of commercial fishing on natural resources. But he became an advocate of local seafood after crunching data and realizing that N.C. harvesters fished sustainably and that resources were more bountiful than perceived. "Did you know that Pamlico Sound is the most productive body of water in the country, if not the world?" he said. Speckman also noted commercial fishing bans in other states that have not been effective. 

Ryan Speckman Jimmy Ruhle 2023 Summit

Ryan Speckman of Locals listens to fishing
boat Captain Jimmy Ruhle talk about
how commercial fishers help scientists
gather accurate fisheries data.

NC Catch points to a net ban Florida implemented in 1995. The regulation was intended to help boost redfish populations. “But Mike Murphy, a senior research scientist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said ‘the most significant part’ of the redfish harvest was recreational. In the 1980s, there was no recreational bag limit, a 12-inch minimum size and no closed season for redfish, so sport fishermen were keeping as many very small and very large reds as they wanted” the southwest Florida News-Times reported

“New regulations in 1989 included a recreational bag limit, an 18- to 27-inch slot size and a three-month closed season and prohibited the commercial harvest of redfish; the recreational harvest dropped from between 600,000 and 1 million redfish a year to about 200,000, and the commercial harvest dropped from 200,000 to zero. Redfish populations started rebounding before…the net ban, which went into effect July 1, 1995, had no effect on redfish because commercial fishermen hadn't harvested the species for six years,” the newspaper reported. 

Oysters are amazing

Commercial fishers are environmental stewards. Oyster growers are literally improving water quality. Efforts to plant spent oyster shells are creating more places for wild oysters to grow. “A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,” oneearth.org reports. The N.C. Oyster Trail, a project of the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association, N.C. Coastal Federation, N.C. Sea Grant, shows people where to eat oysters and teaches them how oysters help the environment. Along the Trail, you can experience oyster-farm tours; restaurants and markets that sell N.C. oysters; artists that make art with oyster shells; and aquariums, museums and educational centers where you can learn about oysters.

Vicki Basnight Kelsey Aiken Fishermen Summit 2023

Vicki Basnight of Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags
Head and Kelsey Aiken of Jeffrey's 
Seafood in Hatteras.

Local seafood
is in demand

North Carolina Sea Grant reports that 75% of consumers prefer seafood docked in North Carolina or the United States. Famous Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head is built on local seafood. The always-packed parking lot attests to local seafood’s popularity. Each local seafood dish on the menu names the commercial fisher who brought in the catch. A soft-shell crab operation on site provides more fresh seafood. Co-owner Vicki Basnight is an active commercial fisher and NC Catch board member. "My favorite seafood," she said, "is a fried soft-shell crab sandwich on Wonder Bread with mayo!" 

Carol Haywood Charlotte Dixon Sharon Peele Kennedy Summit 2023 Basnights

Carol Haywood, Charlotte Dixon and
2023 NC Catch board member Sharon
Peele Kennedy cooked heritage commercial
fishing family recipes at the Outer Banks
Seafood Feast,a fundraiser for NC Catch
the night of NC Catch Summit 2023 at 
Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe, Nags Head.

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