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Collectively, Currituck, Dare, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties – the Outer Banks – have a rich history of 2nd, 3rd, even 5th generation families who crab, shrimp, oyster, clam and fish as a demanding and specialized trade. While settled in the 1600s, it took post-Civil War era technological developments and more efficient transportation and distribution systems to get the Outer Banks seafood product to market. Prior to the industrial revolution, our people mostly clammed, oystered and crabbed for sustenance. But by the 19th century, commercial fishing had become an important contributor to the economy of Wanchese.
Today many of our local fishermen have fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers who earned their living farming the ocean, oftentimes under adverse conditions. Several fish alone or in small groups. Some fleets run out of Wanchese.
Now in the 21st century, many of our Outer Banks commercial fishing families are in danger of disappearing. The U.S. fishing industry is being hit hard by such factors as increased and ever-changing regulations, rising fuel costs and importation of foreign seafood. According to the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, the influx of cheap imported fish and shellfish has driven down prices to those earned in the 1960s. As a result, many fishermen are being forced to find other professions, and the long, hard hours in exchange for low pay are deterring future generations from carrying on the family business.