Conservation Projects

When scientists observe native plant and animal populations in decline they may become concerned. Determining the causes for decline can tell us if the changes are natural or cyclical, or if there will be significant long-term detriment to the natural community. Loss of habitat is one reason for species decline. Other reasons may include changes in the environment or direct harvesting of a species. Species declines can impact biological diversity also known as “biodiversity” and they can impact natural resources that are important to man.The Aquariums are committed to maintaining biological diversity by helping scientists and resource managers find answers when species populations decline or show signs of stress.


The eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) has declined by about 90% in North Carolina since the turn of the century due to over-harvesting, declines in water quality and increased susceptibility to disease. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores partners with many organizations to promote awareness of oyster conservation and restoration efforts in our state. Our Special Activities Programs feature salt marsh walks where participants can view oyster reefs and learn first-hand about oyster ecology. Visitors can view an under-dock oyster garden and backyard reef showing what they can do at home on the waterway. Citizens interested in under-dock gardening can also visit the Shellfish Gardeners of North Carolina.


Learn the “Three Fs” about Oysters

  • Oysters FILTER anywhere from 15 to 50 gallons of water a day depending on their size and how long they are submerged. Oysters in an under-dock garden filter more and grow faster because they stay submerged.
  • Oysters provide FISH HABITAT for over 300 species of juvenile fish, shrimp, crabs, worms and other marine life that forms the base of our coastal ecology.
  • Oysters once provided a very important FOOD source for native Americans and early settlers. Today they are a prized delicacy.


Be a scientist in your own backyard! Through FrogWatch, a national program that monitors the breeding activity of frogs and toads, citizens can become experts in identifying frog breeding calls and collect data for research. North Carolina has 31 species of frogs and toads, many of which are in danger of losing habitat due to development and a changing climate. Workshops are held twice annually at the Aquarium to help citizens perfect their listening skills and learn how to collect data that are used by researchers to better understand frog and toad populations. To learn more about FrogWatch, visit, or contact the Aquarium.


Monofilament recycling

The North Carolina Aquariums offer many fun and informative fishing programs. Because we are conveniently located on the coast our programs cover pier fishing, surf fishing and basic angling. Both new and experienced fishermen can learn about conservation practices. This includes catch and release and recycling of monofilament line. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores has partnered with the North Carolina Maritime Museum to raise awareness of the danger of monofilament line in the environment.

Monofilament line entangles wildlife often severely injuring or killing birds, turtles, dolphins and other animals. Fishermen should always take special care not to let their line inadvertently end up in the environment. Cut the line into small pieces before disposing of it properly. If available, use a recycling station like the one pictured here. Staff and volunteers collect line from the bins and send it in for recycling. For more information on the program visit the Maritime Museum’s monofilament page.

Stranding networks

When a sea turtle or marine mammal strands on local beaches, staff at the Aquarium are trained to respond and assist researchers. We are often the first on the scene to assess the animal, help with crowd control, and collect data on the animal’s condition, injuries, and size. Sea turtle strandings are managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the central region marine mammal stranding network is managed by the NC Division of Marine Fisheries. Both agencies compile strandings data to better understand the species in our area, the threats facing them, and their health. A necropsy, or animal autopsy, is often performed on deceased animals to gain even more knowledge of the animal’s feeding habits and anatomy. Report a stranded or distressed animal to the contact numbers below:

Marine Mammals: 252-241-5119
Sea Turtles: 252-241-7367 or 252-728-1528.