CCA NC Assistant Director Matthew Wallin and CCA NC Board Chairman Emeritus Billy Byrd hold a partnership sign as they begin deploying the oblong reef balls provided by NCDMF and the rectangular ExoFormsTM from Natrx.

CCA NC recently organized the deployment of almost 300 reef structures onto a 15-acre site in the Pamlico Sound to create North Carolina’s newest artificial fishing reef, AR-293. The new reef will boost the Pamlico River ecosystem and help the local economy in a remote part of Eastern North Carolina.

CCA NC, with financial support from Starborough Wine, purchased 82 3D printed artificial reef structures that were submerged along with 200 reef balls provided by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, near the mouth of the Pamlico River off Mouse Harbor.

The concrete ExoFormsTM, designed and produced by Natrx in Raleigh, provide refuge for important fish species such as red drum, sheepshead, black drum, striped bass and speckled trout, as well as oysters, mussels, crustaceans, invertebrates and other organisms, promoting biodiversity and vibrancy within the river ecosystem.

The reef deployment just south of Pamlico Point near Hobucken is the second Pamlico River reef project for Natrx, CCA NC and the NCDMF in the last 16 months. In May 2022, a similar artificial reef was deployed on the Bayview Reef site upstream near the mouth of Bath Creek. Improving fish stocks provides an economic boost to the local community through increased recreational fishing activity while also relieving the pressure on popular fishing grounds by creating new destinations for anglers.

“These reef projects have been supported by popular demand from the local community as well as among sportsmen traveling here,” said Rocky Carter, chairman of the CCA NC board of directors. “This project dovetails with local efforts by the state Wildlife Resource Commission to improve access for recreational anglers to this part of the Pamlico which is more remote than other areas of the state with more development.”

Earlier this year, Starborough Wine, one of 130 brands owned by E. & J. Gallo Winery, approached CCA NC about partnering on a reef project. This follows successful projects where Starborough partnered with Reefmaker to deploy three concrete limestone “super reef” structures in two locations off the Gulf coast near Destin, FL, in the last two years.

Adrienne Daniels, senior director of marketing at E. & J. Gallo Winery explained why a winery half a world away would help fund an artificial reef in North Carolina.

“We know our planet’s reef structures are an invaluable part of our ecosystems. In year two of these reef projects, Starborough Wine wanted to expand beyond Florida into other critical habitats,” Daniels said. “The Pamlico Sound was chosen because it’s the largest estuarine lagoon in the state and one of the largest in the United States.”

“The Pamlico Point reef project is a terrific example of collaboration between a conversation-minded non-profit, public resource agencies and an innovative climate tech company providing advanced coastal resilience solutions,” said Leonard Nelson, CEO of Natrx. “These estuarine reef installations represent significant milestones in the use of adaptive infrastructure technology in North Carolina.”

CCA NC’s habitat program is a continuation of national efforts by CCA to help restore fish habitat across the country. The Building Conservation Trust, CCA’s national habitat program, has been involved in dozens of habitat conservation and restoration projects on all three coasts, ranging from large-scale artificial reefing projects offshore to community-based, hand-planted marsh restoration projects in estuaries. These projects have had a lasting, positive impact on a variety of marine ecosystems and serve as an investment for the future enjoyment of generations to come.