S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

GIS-based South Carolina Mariculture Siting Tool

Project Background

With a burgeoning demand for local product the South Carolina shellfish aquaculture industry has potential to expand, though siting new leases and completing the permitting process have been identified by industry stakeholders as barriers that hinder expansion of the industry. When developing an operation, prospective growers must identify areas that avoid any environmental impacts, mitigate other user conflicts, identify economically feasible locations, and site within boundaries which regulatory permits can be obtained.

Several other states have developed GIS-based map applications to predict feasible siting areas, which may then be verified by on-site visits. In South Carolina, spatial data concerning regulatory requirements is publicly available through GIS-map applications, but there is a paucity of readily available information concerning the remaining siting factors, which increases difficulty and uncertainty with selecting a location to develop an aquaculture operation. Therefore, a tool that can integrate these multi-factor considerations will significantly reduce the burden and enhance equity for industry stakeholders.

In an effort to offer multi-perspective information consolidated to a single web-location the Consortium has partnered with The University of South Carolina Geography Department to develop a GIS-based siting tool with an estimated completion date of January 2023.

Goals of the Project

This project aims to create an online GIS-based tool to facilitate the process of selecting an appropriate shellfish mariculture lease location in coastal South Carolina with the overall goal of supporting siting decisions that will bolster the healthy and sustainable growth of the South Carolina shellfish aquaculture industry. The tool will be used by shellfish mariculture industry entrants and current growers to successfully locate usable, environmentally- and economically-beneficial sites as they work through the regulatory process.

Stakeholder Engagement

The Consortium has engaged with shellfish aquaculture stakeholders (shellfish growers, SCSGC Specialists, SCDNR, SCDHEC, shellfish researchers, etc.) to identify essential site selection factors broadly stated to encompass regulatory requirements, environmental factors, economic factors, and social aspects. Through this study, researchers will create a GIS-based siting tool to display identified data layer needs derived through the shellfish aquaculture stakeholder engagement.