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Pfiesteria Killed Fish and New Bern Tourism

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NEW BERN — Pfiesteria can kill fish by the thousands, and bad publicity can kill tourism in equally large measures.

North Carolina is planning to launch an expensive advertising campaign to fight what may be a summer of pfiesteria hysteria.

Walter Barnes knows enough about pfiesteria to be concerned about it. However, it was not enough to keep the Florida resident from vacationing in New Bern. "I don't see it as a big problem," Barnes said. "I have faith in the federal department that's handling it that they'll eventually find out what it is and take care of it."

Governor Hunt hopes state money, $300,000 of it, can lure more tourists back to eastern North Carolina.

Pfiesteria first generated news three years ago, and eastern counties have lost millions in tourism and seafood dollars. Both industries want people to realize that it is safe to vacation in this part of the state. They claim that public perception is everything.

"It's very important," Sandy Richardson with the Craven County Visitors Bureau said. "Our area attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, spending some $63 million in our county alone."

Seafood dealers like Walter Barnes said that even though last summer was quiet in North Carolina's waters, pfiesteria woes in the Chesapeake hurt business here. They believe Hunt's plan to market the area can only help.

"They get scared to eat anything at all and I think that's wrong," Seafood seller Brent Fulcher said. "There are plenty of things they can enjoy out of the seafood line, and also by enjoying the water resources and other areas like boating. Things that maybe they're a little bit scared to do now." Reporter / Photographer:Brian Bowman