The Not-in-My-Backyard (NIMBY) mentality is going after oysters. Complaining about unsightly materials and bad smells, some property owners on the coastline want oyster farmers to do their business elsewhere or call for moratoriums to be placed on new farming leases. Oyster farming, however, is already heavily regulated, and more regulations would make it even harder for these farmers to meet the rising demand for oysters, clams, and shellfish.

The oyster industry in North Carolina has taken off in recent years. In 2021 it was worth $30 million, a record. Some of this growth is due in part to efforts from the state government to encourage more aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions. For example, the government has started a loan program to help aquaculture entrepreneurs get started.

The reason for encouraging aquaculture is that it yields both economic and environmental benefits. According to the North Carolina Coastal Federation, oyster farming “has the potential to provide numerous benefits, including increased water filtration, additional habitat for fish and other estuarine species, and economic development opportunities for the coastal economy.”

That said, oyster farmers still go through vast regulations to do their business. Altogether, there are eight permits needed for farming. These permits range from the license to farm to a license to transport the farmed shellfish. While securing these permits doesn’t cost money, the process of getting them still adds to the time and effort a new farmer must go through to conduct his business.

It would be unreasonable of coastal homeowners to demand that oyster farming not be done in surrounding public waters, what they seem to think of as their “backyard.” Buying a coastal property does not give individuals ownership of public waters. It also is perplexing that, having moved to the coast, these individuals are complaining of it smelling “fishy.”

Some property owners have called for oyster farmers to farm further out in the water. But that approach would not yield the same results. Oysters tend to reside in shallow areas that are submerged in high tide and exposed at low tide. Farming further away would result in lower supplies of fresh oysters, and therefore higher prices.

If oyster farmers were required to farm in deeper waters, they would have less incentive to work in North Carolina. The industry would be unlikely to see any growth, let alone reach that $100 million industry goal by 2030. Lastly, the environmental benefits of aquaculture would not be fully realized if farming were restricted.

NIMBYism opposes disruption of the status quo when it’s perceived as affecting property use or value, whether it is stopping the development of new housing to trying to prevent people from accessing delicious shellfish. It ignores that industry and new growth are all part of a flourishing society.

If a moratorium were placed on oyster farm leases or farmers were forced to move further out, the environmental benefits of farming would not be fully realized. Our oyster farmers would also have a more difficult time keeping up with the increases in demand. Once again, it is perplexing that those who choose to live near public waters would complain about the smells and sights from living near water and seek to have government prevent oyster farming where it makes most sense. NIMBYism should do farmers, shellfish consumers, and the ocean a favor by staying out of it.