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Group Hopes to Serve Up More Local Seafood

Sit down in a restaurant along North Carolina's coast, and you probably expect the seafood to be local - but that’s often not the case. One group, however, is trying to change that.

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BEAUFORT, N.C. — Sit down in a restaurant along North Carolina's coast, and you probably expect that the seafood on the table is local - but that is often not the case. Carteret Catch, however, is trying to change that.

The group identifies restaurants and retailers serving seafood caught in Carteret County. Ones that do can hang a distinctive sign in their windows.

"Often, people think that because they're in a coastal area that, of course, they're eating fresh local seafood, which they are not," Pam Morris, with Carteret Catch, said.

Fresh local seafood has a hard time finding its way onto restaurant menus due to competition from inexpensive imports.

Bradley Styrons, owner of the Fish House in Beaufort, said he hopes consumers will demand local seafood, such as the fresh shrimp caught on the coast that he serves.

"The consumer doesn't know. I think a lot of times if they did know what they were eating, they would demand something different," Styrons said.

Sharpies Bar and Grille, on the Beaufort waterfront, participates in the Carteret Catch program. Executive chef Jerry Frivance said he is proud to serve local seafood.

"The stuff I get was swimming early in the morning or the day before I get it in. And it's right here," he said. "The stuff I pick out locally I guarantee is nice."

Restaurateurs said local fishermen are betting on diners picking up on Carteret Catch's mission: to educate visitors to the coast, promote local seafood and teach the value of fresh fish.

"I would believe if you sat down and had some local seafood, compared to some frozen stuff that was sent in from Taiwan, you could tell the difference," Styrons said.