ContactSite MapSearchNews
Inside Sea GrantResearchExtensionEducationFundingProductsEvents

SC Sea Grant Consortium
287 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29401
p: 843.953.2078
f: 843.953.2080
Marine Fisheries

Fisheries Extension Program

Program Goal: For South Carolina to have sustainable fisheries that balance the ecological needs of living marine resources and the socioeconomic needs of communities.

Who We Work With: Commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, fisheries resource managers, seafood dealers, chefs, a wide range of scientists, Sea Grant fisheries extension programs throughout the region and nation.

SC Sea Grant Fisheries Extension Programs aim to expedite the application of scientific findings to real-world situations. We accomplish this by facilitating communication between fishermen, scientists, and resource managers. A functioning line of communication between these groups will allow for the development of economically and environmentally viable and sustainable fisheries. 
The era of managing single species in fisheries has progressed into a holistic and comprehensive strategy of ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management that include the interactions of multiple species, habitats, and humans. The complexity of these management approaches is challenging and requires innovative techniques that incorporate both natural sciences and human dimensions (e.g., socio-economics). Long-term sustainability of South Carolina’s fisheries will rely on employing innovative methods that are compatible with changing demographics, business development, regulatory environments, and long-term conservation of natural and cultural resources. These innovative methods can range from new handling techniques and gear improvements, to seafood marketing approaches or supply chain optimization. SC Sea Grant Extension staff work to inform the seafood industry of the tools available to them, thereby allowing business owners to make more confident and informed business decisions.

The ultimate goal of commercial fishing is to bring a seafood product to market, therefore, the SCSG Fisheries Extension Program includes projects aimed at enhancing the economic viability of South Carolina seafood producers through development of new products and innovative marketing approaches to increase seafood availability and profitability. Ultimately, we want to improve the capacity of South Carolina seafood businesses to meet the buying, packaging, delivery, and legal needs of buyers through market-ready training.

Brief Overview of South Carolina Fisheries

South Carolina contains 2,876 miles of tidal shoreline, 10,000 square miles of continental shelf, 500,000 acres of tidal bottoms, and 504,450 acres of salt marsh (representing 20 percent of the East Coast total). In addition, its coastline is characterized by over 165 linear miles of beaches and dotted with more than 40 barrier and sea islands. Five major estuaries help drain major watersheds originating from as far away as western North Carolina. The dense areas of highly fertile salt marsh surrounding these estuaries and scattered barrier islands along the coastline provide a favorable habitat for many important commercial and recreational species during their juvenile and adult life stages. The commercial shrimp fishery is the largest and most economically valuable commercial fishery in South Carolina. South Carolina’s offshore features also serve to support and sustain many resident and migratory fisheries species. Structural features on the continental shelf include natural hard bottoms as well as 37 artificial reefs and five major shipwrecks. The Charleston Bump, a unique habitat located southeast of Charleston on the Blake Plateau, deflects the Gulf Stream offshore in the South Atlantic Bight resulting in ocean upwelling that brings nutrients to the surface waters. This increases the primary productivity of South Carolina’s coastal ocean waters, supporting and concentrating a food chain from zooplankton to small fish to commercially and recreationally important reef and pelagic fish that prey on them.

The shrimp fishery is the most commercially important fishery in South Carolina, followed by fisheries for blue crab and oysters. The shrimp fishery is valued at roughly $5.6 million with the blue crab fishery and wild-harvested oyster fisheries valued at $3.4 million and $1.2 million, respectively.

Examples of How We Work:

Our Coastal Future Forum
Blue Crab Fishermen Identify Ways to Adapt to Changing Climate

Lionfish researchers developing methods for effective control of invasive species
Seafood and tourism industries: possible partners
Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit
SC Seafood MarketMaker
South Carolina Shrimp Fishery Assistance Project (SCSFA)

Our Coastal future Forum
This research project explores a new process to include citizens, natural resource managers, scientists, and government officials in a supportive setting to discuss the coastal future of South Carolina. Our plan is to use deliberative discussion to bridge the sometimes opposing opinions on environmental issues. The project is guided by a panel of scientific experts and a panel of community leaders to assure that the science and issues are on-point for our coastal areas. The Forum will be held this fall with attendees from the coastal counties and decision-makers from coastal communities.

Visit our project-specific webpage.

Blue Crab Fishermen Identify Ways to Adapt to Changing Climate
The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium in partnership with the Social and Environmental Research Institute is working with blue crab fishermen in Beaufort County to determine what effect climate change, namely drought and increased stormwater runoff, has on their fishery. During the summer and fall of 2013, fishermen participated in Vulnerability and Consequences Adaptation Planning Scenario workshops that helped identify components of the fishery most affected by a changing climate. Crabbers now plan to become involved in monitoring the fishery, including collecting basic environmental data, so that they can work with resources managers to better identify when and where changes occur. From this partnership and improved communication, fishermen, scientists and managers can work together to develop adaption strategies that allow them to continue to land a high quality product.

Blue Crab Fishermen gathering data
Crabbers gathering data in effort to contribute to understanding of the resource and management of the fishery.

Lionfish researchers developing methods for effective control of invasive species

The invasive lionfish has no natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean and is known to consume commercially-important fish such as snapper and grouper. With funding from a regional collaboration of Sea Grant programs in NC, SC, GA, FL, and Puerto Rico, current studies aim to determine the effectiveness of lionfish derbies, or rodeos, and trapping at reducing the local lionfish population. By conducting studies on how quickly lionfish re-colonize after an area is cleared of lionfish we will be able to make local recommendations on how often removal activities should take place. Research is also underway in the Florida Keys to determine if lobster pots act as attractants for lionfish and, if so, can a method be developed for removal of the fish from these deeper waters.  This portion of the research will be particularly useful in South Carolina since lionfish here are typically found in the deeper, warmer waters of the Gulf Stream.

Controlling invasive Lionfish
photo from US Geological Survey

Creating dialogue, and potential business partnerships, between tourism and seafood industries
A trip to the South Carolina coast is most likely to include a meal or two of local seafood but sometimes making the connection back to who produced that food can be difficult, especially for tourists. Elsewhere in the US, such as in Cedar Key, FL, the story of who produced the food is as important as the food itself and experiencing how the food is produced is a big draw for tourists. A group of researchers from Clemson University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management are interested in how to make this ‘where your seafood comes from’ something that would draw tourists to communities on our coast. They partnered with Sea Grant’s fisheries and aquaculture specialist and hit the road to talk to people involved in tourism and seafood production to see how to make this happen. What they found out, among other things, is that there are two groups of people that although they don’t typically interact with one another, they share common goals and values. Some partnerships, such as shellfish farming and kayak eco-tours, are fairly simple to implement and could augment both businesses. Offering tourist experiences of other commercial fisheries, such as shrimp boats, while not impossible, is more complicated but could provide an additional income stream for those willing to negotiate the hurdles.

Coastal communities across the nation are looking for ways to integrate the tourism and seafood industries. Here is a link to information about what folks in Maine are doing, including information on the legal aspects of carrying passengers on vessels.

Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit attendees experience Lowcountry seafood – rave reviews and national media exposure follow
The country’s best chefs came together in Charleston for three days in November to talk about sustainable sourcing of food, including seafood. They weren’t the only one’s interested in ‘changing menus, changing minds’. They were joined by farmers, fishermen, federal government fisheries and aquaculture representatives, not-for-profit environmental groups, and top food and environment writers. South Carolina seafood was highlighted throughout the conference, including during two seafood-centric field trips: Oyster Farming in Beaufort and Clam Farming at Isle of Palms. Participants enjoyed on the water tours and, on the oyster farm tour, a talk from Sea Grant shellfish specialist, Julie Davis, about oyster nurseries. Everyone then enjoyed local seafood and a Lowcountry boil prepared on-site by Fleet Landing Restaurant.  

Sustainable Seafood Summit
Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit 2013 participants enjoying South Carolina seafood.

SC Seafood MarketMaker™: Helping Fishermen and Farmers Market Seafood Products
MarketMaker is a national program originally developed by University of Illinois Extension faculty to connect grass-fed beef producers with economically viable new markets. MarketMaker™ is currently owned and operated by Riverside Research. The approach to this web-based, interactive tool is three-tiered allowing, 1) Producers (farmers and fishermen) to establish a web presence through the creation of a business profile, 2) Consumers and buyers to find producers that are selling their food products and 3) Producers to conduct target market research using a searchable database of demographic data to help refine their marketing efforts for their food products. Recognizing the opportunity for fishermen and aquaculture businesses to benefit from this program, SC Sea Grant Extension approached Clemson University about incorporating a seafood component to the SC MarketMaker site. In early 2009, through a partnership with SC Sea Grant, Clemson University, SC Department of Agriculture and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, MarketMaker was launched in South Carolina. Check out the SC MarketMaker website to find farmers and fishermen that are selling SC vegetables and seafood:

South Carolina Shrimp Fishery Assistance Project (SCSFA)
The SCSFA project was a collaborative effort between Clemson University, the SC Sea Grant Consortium, and the South Carolina commercial shrimp industry. In 2002, SC Sea Grant hosted a forum which brought together commercial shrimp fishermen, university researchers, extension agents, and state and federal management agencies to discuss strategies for saving the SC commercial shrimp industry. Coincidentally, federal funding was awarded for economic assistance to the ailing industry around the same time. Federal funds were allocated for research aimed at economics, niche marketing, travel and tourism marketing, packaging and infrastructure support, and quality assurance. Clemson University and SC Sea Grant worked with the Shrimp Industry Task Force, to develop materials to assist shrimpers with assessing their business and identifying ways to improve profits. Although the program concluded in 2008, the materials generated by this program are still available at

For more information on Marine Fisheries contact: 843-255-6060 ext 112 or

Marine Fisheries Related Links

Last updated: 7/2/2018 11:05:01 AM
Marine Fisheries


Page Tools Print this page
E-mail this page
Bookmark this page

Coastal Science Serving South Carolina
Copyright © 2001-2019 South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium
Turbulent Flow Image Courtesy of Prof. Haris J. Catrakis, University of California, Irvine
Privacy & Accessibility