Feasibility/Pilot Study for Under Dock Oyster and Clam Culture – Year I
- Identify interested waterfront property owners to participate in a pilot study to evaluate feasibility and operating costs.
- Each participant will be properly trained and asked to test two to three culture containers.
- Determine growth and survival in each cage system at each site and evaluate relative merits of the different grow out containers.
Coastal populations have increased dramatically over the last decade and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Many residents chose to live on the coast so they can enjoy the bountiful natural resources, including shellfish. However population growth presents a major threat to these very resources through land-use changes, increased non-point source runoff, dredging, negative side-effects of recreational boating, and increased harvest pressure, to name a few. Harvest pressure on our publicly-managed shellfish grounds is increasing faster than the grounds can support. In other words these resources are not currently self-sustaining in certain heavily harvested areas. SCDNR replenishes some of these grounds each year, but enhancement falls far short of the increasing need.
An under dock single oyster and clam culture program has the potential to be an innovative program that could relieve some pressure on the natural resources while encouraging appreciation for the fragile coastal system and the resources therein. North Carolina established such a program in 2004 and has clear regulations and protocols that South Carolina can use as a template to conduct a pilot feasibility study. Virginia, Maryland and other east coast states have similar state programs.
This study would identify interested waterfront property owners to participate in a pilot study to evaluate feasibility and operating costs. Property owners would have to meet all requirements and must agree to additional record-keeping. Pilot study participants would help SCDNR evaluate different culture systems, determine how long it might take for a homeowner to achieve an edible product, develop Best Management Practices and identify problems that need to be addressed. We would like to include a minimum of 6 participants in the pilot study and could accommodate up to twelve.
Each participant will be asked to test two to three culture containers. SCDNR will identify a suite of possible culture containers (drawing from programs in North Carolina and Mid-Atlantic States) and will solicit innovative ideas from participants. Initially we are interested in testing a box cage (like a Page Cage), oyster trays (similar to AquaPurses), a floating container (like the Mobile Bay Float) and a long-line style container (like chubs).
Participants will take a training course (similar to the NC online course) and pass a test prior to "admission" to the project. All sites will be visited by SCDNR staff to confirm suitability. SCDNR staff will verify that the site is located in approved waters and generate GIS permit maps. Clams and/or oysters will be purchased from in-state hatcheries. SCDNR will purchase the seed and provide to the participants.
At the end of the project (18-24 months) we will determine growth and survival in each cage system at each site and evaluate relative merits of the different grow out containers. We will project the time to reach edible size (if it has not been achieved during the project). We will evaluate the applicability of NC regulations for Under Dock Culture and modify as necessary for South Carolina conditions.