S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Background

In South Carolina, seafood is tied closely to the state’s cultural heritage. South Carolina fishers and aquaculturists are employed in producing a large variety of products. Shrimp, blue crab, and oysters are our top products, but clams and a variety of finfish are near the top of the list as well. Our state is home to some of the largest soft shell crab shedding operations in the region, and several smaller shedding houses provide an economic jolt for crab fishermen in the spring of the year. The state’s fishery for horseshoe crabs is unique in that horseshoe crabs can only be collected for biomedical purposes, meaning they are blood donors which are returned to the sea after being bled. This is a significant contributor to our fishery, and the lab that bleeds crabs is a major employer in Charleston. Despite significant challenges, our oyster mariculture industry has adopted off-bottom techniques and continues to grow.

Small-scale, family-operated businesses employing boutique marketing techniques are becoming more common on the South Carolina coast. Wholesale seafood businesses remain strong, but production is more sporadic than in years past, requiring diversification of revenue streams or taking additional steps to justify a higher product price to remain profitable.

Demand for South Carolina seafood is high. If one produces a quality product, it can be sold, which is good news for producers, but it means they need access to the technology and infrastructure to support production. Wild caught fisheries in our state, namely shrimp and finfish, are challenged by dwindling access to waterfront property to allow them to efficiently land and process their catch as well as maintain their boats. Expansion of shellfish aquaculture has the potential to provide significant environmental and economic benefits to the state. As more people take up residence along our coast, our seafood industry will be challenged with maintaining its position in both urban and rural settings. A modern, professional, competitive, and well-organized industry can face the challenges that lie ahead.

The focus of this program area is to generate and disseminate information through translational research, technology transfer, and extension and education on the development of sustainability in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, in particular, the development of viable, sustainable marine fisheries technologies and practices.