S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Working Waterfronts Community Forums

About the Forums

After hearing from coastal communities that they were struggling to maintain and/or evolve their traditional working waterfronts, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and researchers from Clemson University and College of Charleston talked with stakeholders from Murrells Inlet, Georgetown, McClellanville, Mount Pleasant (Shem Creek), and Port Royal.

In group meetings and individual interviews conducted during 2015 and 2016, researchers asked about the future of traditional working waterfronts and gathered information that helped identify needs, challenges, and opportunities for each community. The results of this research were presented at Community Forums designed to facilitate discussion and help prioritize issues.

During the Forums, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium staff and Dr. Bill Norman of Clemson University, presented information collected for all of the working waterfront communities in the study. There are many more working waterfronts in South Carolina, however, these were selected because they were a representative sample of communities in the state and they had asked for information.

Working Waterfronts Community Forums Publications

A summary of the findings of the project, including priorities defined by each community.

The Future Of South Carolina Working Waterfronts: A Community Partnership Exploring Priorities

South Carolina Working Waterfronts: Exploring Priorities

S.C. Working Waterfronts: Traditions in Transition Storymap

Questions Asked and Answered

Q: How did the researchers define “neighborhood”?

A: These projects asked participants about their perspective on the past, present, and future of the individual working waterfronts, so their idea of neighborhood, community, industry etc. There was no need to constrain their thoughts based on another’s opinions. However, when planning for the future groups sharing the same language and gaining a common understanding of these terms is often the first step in the process.

Q: Why were community residents not more involved in the study (e.g., interviews)?

A: The projects utilized key people in the community to provide a view of the past, current, and future state of the working waterfronts in each community. These included commercial fisherman and shellfish farmers; municipal officials and staff, such as planners; tourism professionals; SCDNR representatives; restaurateurs; retail seafood business owners; nonprofit directors; land managers; and other industry representatives. The scope of the projects was small and intended to provide an overview, a place to start in thinking about the future of these places. Planning could involve a larger part of the community.

Q: How important is commercial fishing to each community?

A: All five of the communities expressed a desire to maintain a commercial fishery on their working waterfront. They recognized the importance, not only for jobs but for providing local seafood for the restaurants and a maritime ambience to the waterfront. McClellanville has zoning ordinances that make it difficult to supplant commercial fishing operations with restaurants or condos. Port Royal’s town government pays for the operation of a commercial dock. Mount Pleasant built a commercial dock as part of its Shem Creek improvements in recent years.

The economic importance of commercial fisheries has decreased in all South Carolina coastal communities in recent years. NOAA offered one look at the situation with its Ocean Jobs Snapshot in 2013. Those numbers indicate Georgetown County has 3,293 ocean-related jobs, with 98.4 percent of those in the tourism and recreation category, which includes restaurants. Charleston County has 28,183 ocean-related jobs, with 84.8 percent in the tourism and recreation sector and 8.5 percent in marine transportation (the majority at the Port of Charleston, not in smaller working waterfront communities). Beaufort County has 10,344 ocean-related jobs, with 99.6 percent in tourism and recreation. Commercial fisheries create fewer than 2 percent of the ocean-related jobs in those counties.

Q: Is there research out there that looks at the impacts of plastic pollution on working waterfronts and tourism?

A: Currently there is no research in this area.

Q: Why such a small interview sample of 4-6 people per community?

A: The second study interviewed individuals about their working waterfronts including climate impacts and involved only.

Q: Can S.C. Sea Grant Consortium reach out to the state legislature or any relevant agencies that could assist with the issues of working waterfronts?

A: The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium is available to assist people working to ensure the health of our working waterfronts within the scope of our agency. While it is not our job to reach out to other agencies or the legislature, we can supply information and help you identify agencies that might assist in the work, as well as facilitate conversations.

Q: Can S.C. Sea Grant Consortium present forum study results to the county government staff and officials?

A: The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium is available to assist people working to ensure the health of our working waterfronts within the scope of our agency. If we are invited, we are happy to present the results of this study to your communities.

Identified Needs


  • Impacts of plastic pollution on working waterfronts and tourism
  • Useful, applied research
  • Studies to update the value of economic impact (fishing and tourism) – numbers do not reflect the actual value (under-estimated value)
  • Survey of current fishing community (average age of fishermen; average age of facilities; average age of boats


  • Community education
  • Examples of case studies for successful co-ops or other structured options
  • Financial assistance opportunities – grants, state-secured funding source
  • New series of charrettes that will include climate