S.C. Sea Grant Consortium
A group of African American and white people gather around tables filled with planning materials.
Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail Logo, a colorful scene with a shrimper casting a net in front of a sunset.

Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail to Promote Maritime Cultural Heritage and Enhance Economic Resilience

About the Project

As tourism continues to grow in coastal South Carolina, it is essential to identify strategies to promote equity in sustainable economic opportunity and to maintain the well-being of coastal communities. The Consortium developed a partnership with the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce, an organization that promotes businesses owned by Gullah Geechee members in South Carolina, and supported the Chamber in the federal grants application process. Through this capacity building, the Chamber was awarded over $280,000 by the NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy Program to develop and establish a Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail.

Seafood businesses are both a major component of the state’s tourism industry and a culturally significant economic opportunity for the Gullah Geechee, who are descendants of enslaved Africans/African Americans that share a common language, foodways, food preparation skills, spiritual connection, art, music, and song. Through a series of meetings and conversations with stakeholders from the Gullah Geechee community, the project team gathered feedback on how to develop a Seafood Trail and to prioritize goals that maximize benefits for Gullah Geechee-owned businesses and seafood operations. Seafood businesses include fishers, harvesters, aquaculturists, seafood markets, and restaurants, and these businesses exist both formally and informally within the Gullah Geechee community. 


The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium is collaborating with the Gullah Geechee Chamber Foundation, WeGOJA FoundationGullah/Geechee Sea Island CoalitionGullah/Geechee Fishing Association, and Coastal Carolina University to support the development of the Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail.

Project Status

From January to August 2022, the project team hosted four focus groups and completed 26 interviews at various locations in coastal South Carolina. During these listening sessions, the team engaged with members of the Gullah Geechee community and discussed maritime cultural heritage topics, including familial connections to water, coastal-land stewardship, sweetgrass basket weaving, seafood harvesting and preparation techniques, culturally significant geographic locations, how knowledge is passed down to younger generations, and challenges facing cultural heritage preservation as well as potential solutions to these challenges. 

Primary testimonials gathered from Gullah Geechee watermen and women during these focus groups will be highlighted on the trail’s website and at trail locations to educate people about the maritime cultural heritage of the Gullah Geechee community. Stories and experiences also will be shared on a wider scale through written stories, audio, and video. An important aspect of this effort is community ownership of the data collected. The Consortium worked with the Chamber and partners to ensure all data collected are digitally archived and owned by community members, so future uses of the data are assured to be appropriate.

Soon, data collection and interviews will conclude, a Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail website will be developed, and trail marketing and promotion will begin. Ultimately, the Seafood Trail project will increase the economic resilience of seafood businesses owned by Gullah Geechee people, and will promote the maritime cultural heritage of the community through capacity building, marketing opportunities, and storytelling.