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Examining the Social Carrying Capacity for Mariculture Development on the South Carolina Coast

Principal Investigators

William Norman, Lauren Duffy, Jeffrey Hallo, and Laura Jodice, Clemson University Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management

Project Information

2018-2020 Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Project Number: R/A-36

Research Description

As a result of the promotion of local seafood and growing familiarity with shellfish products such as oysters and clams, the demand and willingness to pay a higher price for farmed shellfish has increased among consumers and chefs, especially in coastal tourism destinations on the South Carolina coast. There is a growing embrace of oysters as a localized food source and quality niche product, and shellfish managers, the seafood industry, and restaurant chefs recognize the considerable growth potential for oyster mariculture in South Carolina. Recent research provided baseline data suggesting SC residents and tourists are moderately supportive of mariculture (clams below the surface), but we have little understanding of support for oyster mariculture expansion which has far more visible infrastructure. Consequently, there is a need to assess social carrying capacity among residents and waterway users who will be most directly impacted by expansion.

The overall goal of this project is to assess the social carrying capacity of Charleston and Beaufort counties for the expansion of oyster mariculture, and to provide human-dimensions data to assist with the future siting and management of mariculture activities. The following objectives are proposed to meet this goal: (1) Identify issues, factors, variables, and attributes influencing stakeholder (i.e., coastal homeowners, tourists, recreational boaters, and recreational anglers/shellfishers) perceptions and attitudes towards the expansion of oyster mariculture and develop a set of indicators that will serve as the basis for measuring social carrying capacity/societal acceptance of mariculture in Charleston and Beaufort counties. (Year 1, Phase 1); (2) Map social values of the coastal landscape using Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) mapping. (Year 1, Phase 1); and (3) Determine thresholds to assess social carrying capacity and the societal acceptability of potential management actions for oyster mariculture development on the coast of Charleston and Beaufort counties. (Year 2, Phase 2). Results will provide empirical data for informed management of oyster mariculture in counties along the SC coast where coastal resources, including viewshed and working waterfronts, are under pressure for being both sustainably managed and economically productive. Oyster mariculture, if managed properly, is an industry that has the potential to coexist with other prominent existing coastal industries such as tourism and commercial fishing, in a way that is economically and ecologically viable into the future.

Contact for Questions

Dr. William Norman (