The weather is warming, the rain has finally stopped, and we are seeing the annual migration of visitors to our beautiful coastal beaches, waters and sounds. It’s also a busy time at the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section conducts water quality sampling for both shellfish growing areas as well as beach and recreational swimming. INSIGHT will highlight this program and provide some education on natural occurring Vibrio bacteria. These bacteria are more prevalent in warmer months and can increase health risks to immune compromised swimmers and shellfish consumers.

Additionally, the division is rolling out a new application that allows users to see recent shellfish closure activity. As rainfall is the primary driver of shellfish closures in conditional areas, consumers and harvesters will be able to more easily keep up to date on closures to ensure product is harvested legally and safely.

Our Fisheries Management Section has begun some of our most important estuarine biological sampling. This edition of INSIGHT takes a closer look at four important and long-term sampling programs and highlights some of the talented marine fisheries technicians associated with them. This data is collected independent of commercial or recreational fishermen and is vital to the assessment and management of many of our state fisheries.

Marine fisheries technicians or “techs” are the backbone of our division and invaluable to our work and mission. The Fisheries Management Section techs, highlighted in this issue, provide the field expertise, data collection and support that allows our marine biologists, statisticians, stock assessment scientists and fishery managers to develop and implement our fishery management plans.

For those readers who aspire to a career in marine biology, the marine fisheries tech position is a common entry point in the division and provides invaluable field experience for career advancement (I started my career as a tech with the S.C. Marine Resources Division in 1984!). However, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is blessed with a small cadre of career technicians who are truly gifted individuals in their craft and provide training for not only technicians but biologists and managers as well.

I hope you enjoy this month’s INSIGHT. Next month we will look at the division’s annual stock overview which will provide important information on our state fisheries stocks.

Enjoy the weather, and stay safe out on the water.