Seafood producers regularly face tremendous disruption, and yet the industry still has much potential to be realized with regards to revenue streams and public awareness. The majority of seafood consumers have little knowledge of product origin and seafood production practices despite their interest in supporting domestic and local producers. If seafood producers can leverage connections with the food and agriculture tourism economy, they will be better poised for sustained growth, or at least, stability. Tourism is the largest ocean economy sector by jobs and GDP in North Carolina and a significant job creator. This project will provide training, marketing assistance, and network building for N.C. commercial fishers and marine aquaculture producers who are wading into the tourism sector.
On September 6th, 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall on North Carolinaâ€™s Outer Banks, causing historic flooding and widespread damage across tourism-dependent barrier island communities. Two communities, Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, were among the hardest hit. As Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts began, the COVID-19 pandemic substantially altered recovery within the tourism sector. Fragile, outdated infrastructure and limited access policies disrupted supply chains and workforce availability, significantly lengthening recovery efforts well into the 2020 hurricane season. Once access was restored, the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke boomed with visitors seeking a â€œsafeâ€ escape from the pandemic, even while business owners were struggling to rebuild and housing shortages continued. The compounding crises of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the decisions within the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke. Through an NSF-funded project â€œRAPID: Disaster recovery decision making in remote tourism dependent communitiesâ€ the research team uncovered pathways of near-term decision making and integrating these decisions within a broader network of actors establishing a baseline for understanding disaster recovery in remote tourism-dependent communities. Through this research the need for a centralized location to integrate information sources and recovery resources, facilitate sharing of capacity strengths and weaknesses, and foster learning and partnerships among tourism-dependent coastal communities. This proposed project seeks to define inter-community, region-specific components (e.g., resources, information pathways, community interactions, and knowledge brokers) needed to create a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. The objectives of this project are designed to build upon the data from the NSF-funded project, by identifying existing community-based planning resources, hosting community focus groups to prioritize resources and actions the community members are willing to take, analyze the feedback from the focus groups, and develop a blueprint for a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. This process will identify the infrastructure and management foundations needed to establish and sustain the hub as well as how tourism-dependent community stakeholders would contribute to and utilize a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub could advance knowledge and practice of resilience strategy development and planning efforts in coastal community contexts.