Teaming up to Restore a Coastal Economy

David “Clammerhead” Cessna has led an interesting life, to say the least.

“I’ve been struck by lightning three times. I’ve been shot once, stabbed twice, had over a hundred broken bones, two strokes, three heart surgeries and six other surgeries. I’ve got a stainless-steel ankle, I’ve been married three times, I’ve got 13 kids.”

But, the long-time Carteret County fisherman said, “the best adventure I’ve ever been on” began at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. He combined his decades of knowledge with new science developed by Niels Lindquist, a professor at the institute, to invent structures that enable oyster communities to grow up instead of out, packing a larger population into a smaller space.

Cessna and Lindquist have launched the Sandbar Oyster Company to commercialize the technology, with the goal to restore the coastal oyster marketplace by getting commercial fisheries to adopt the company’s process.

That would be good news for the people who depend on North Carolina’s troubled oyster populations. The state’s coastline produced 1.8 million bushels of oysters in 1902. Today, only 5 percent of those oyster populations remain.

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