Aquaculture has begun to make a serious presence in North Carolina agriculture, and most of the commercial aquaculture facilities are along the coast. Kent Messick, Section Chief for Field Services for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture says that, like several other crops hit by Hurricane Irene, the impact of the storm won’t be known for a while:
"Well, we've had some reports from Dianne Farr, who is the regional agronomist that's been covering much of that area after the hurricane and trying to get responses. I think the take home message for aquaculture is that it is too early to tell."
While there was some apparent infrastructure damage due to rain, actual fish losses remain to be seen:
"Part of the issues... yes, there were some producers that had some equipment that was flooded and damaged and so forth... But fish losses they say are really going to be difficult to asses right now. There were some aquaculture ponds that were breached, or the levees were breached by rain and such. But there's really no way to tell until they actually go in there and harvest those ponds."
One of the issues that aquaculture farmers could be facing is wild fish in ponds:
"There may have been some fish that have escaped, that went out with some of the water when it went out. There may be some wild fish that have actually got carried into those ponds."
Fish losses due to wide swings in water temperature after torrential rains is also a potential hazard. Messick says that three counties were hit the hardest:
"They suspect that Pamlico, Beaufort and Hyde counties are the ones that probably suffered the most damage but still everybody is trying to asses the damage... it will be a few weeks yet before we know anything."
Section Chief for Field Services for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Kent Messick