by David Cecelski
These are photographs of Quality Seafood’s fish house on Cedar Island, 35 or 40 miles east of Beaufort. Bradley Styron and his family run the business on Cedar Island Bay, a secluded body of water surrounded by endless miles of salt marsh and inland seas. I’ve heard plenty of jokes about Cedar Island being the end of the world, it being so remote and hard to get to, but for me it’s always been one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
When I walked into the fish house, Bradley Styron was on the telephone. He was holding a cell phone with one hand, negotiating a wholesale deal for shrimp and blue crabs, while he shoveled ice with his other hand. It was a balancing act worth seeing—and a little symbolic of what it takes to succeed in the seafood business these days.
Then, the second he got off the phone, he ran over to the dock to help a local fisherman unload a catch of big flounder. Across the way, a young man—his son?—called out a question about a fishing boat repair he was in the middle of—the family fishes its own boats as well as buying from local fishermen.
Without missing a beat, a basket of fish in hand, Bradley Styron answered the young man over his shoulder, turned and politely greeted a neighbor woman who had come into the fish house looking for a dozen live hard crabs for her supper.
Then he gave a group of public schoolteachers—I was there with them—a tour of the fish house and an introduction to the commercial fishing industry on Core Sound.
Bradley Styron and his family are bucking a trend: fish houses have been in freefall in recent years. Beset by steep declines in fishery stocks, fierce competition from seafood imported from the Third World, and befuddling government regulations, many of Core Sound’s oldest fish houses have closed their doors in recent years. To make a go of it, Bradley Styron is up before first light and often doesn’t leave the fish house until ten at night, day in and day out.
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Quality Seafood is located at 2890 Cedar Island Road, the island’s main drag, just a mile or two from the Cedar Island-Ocracoke ferry. It’s a great source for fresh fish, shrimp, crabs, and shellfish in season. You can reach them by phone at (252) 225-0073 or at email@example.com to arrange seafood purchases or to find out what’s fresh. The company also participates in a Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) project that links consumers with fresh, local sources of seafood in Carteret County. You can inquire about the CSF from Quality Seafood or learn more about the CSF at the web site for Carteret Catch: http://greenleaf.uncg.edu/carteretcatch/Index3.htmla.