Save South Carolina Oysters
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Can you imagine not being able to have an oyster roast in Charleston?
Our Lowcountry oysters and oyster farmers are under attack by a small group of people who are motivated by their own greedy interests and do not care to learn about the benefits of mariculture and the protection it provides not only to the wild oyster population, but the entire ecosystem of the Lowcountry's waterways. Read on and sign this petition to keep harsh and harmful regulations off of our hardworking oyster farmers.
Not too long ago, the Chesapeake Bay and Pacific Northwest’s oyster populations were almost completely eradicated by disease and overfishing, (NOAA, 2019). What both of those regions realized too late is that the cost and time required to restore a wild oyster population goes up dramatically after the oysters are wiped out. It has taken the Pacific Northwest nearly 40 years to start to see significant results of replenishing their wild oyster population (Puget Sound Institute, 2019).
Unfortunately, South Carolina is currently flirting with the same outcome as those two famous oyster regions. All it takes is one major event, like a hurricane or disease outbreak, to completely wipe out the population leading to decades of expensive rebuilding.That is why it is crucial to practice preventative restoration rather than the forced restoration that happens after the damage is done.
As of 2019, there is a small group of farmers using the latest preventative mariculture techniques to revive the industry and replenish the Lowcountry waterways with oysters. Mariculture not only takes the stress off of the wild resource by offering a locally-sourced alternative, but it has the potential to dramatically reduce the state’s shell deficit.
South Carolina currently has a shell recycling deficit of 10,000 bushels per year, (Ben Dyar, SCDNR).
Unfortunately, these South Carolina oyster farmers have recently become the target of a small group of Charlestonians who want to see mariculture farms shut down or have the industry become so overregulated that oyster farmers are crippled.
This petition is in support of all of South Carolina's shellfish growers including purveyors of oysters, clams, mussels. We want to see the group "Save Lowcountry Waterways" exposed for the lies and misleading photos they are spreading about our industry. Not one of their representatives has approached any of our oyster farmers in any capacity to have a conversation; Instead, they went straight to their legislators choosing their own personal agenda over that of the Lowcountry’s small business and wildlife restoration communities.
These opponents disingenuously claim that oyster farms block waterways, are deterrents of wildlife, and the permitting process is too lenient. In reality:
1. Oyster farms have strict navigational guidelines including being 50 ft. from the shore at low tide and not taking up more than 33% of the navigable waterway as determined by the Army Corps of Engineers. All of the gear is subject to U.S. Coast Guard marking standards.
2.The floating cages used to raise the oysters encourage and attract wildlife --- crabs, fin fish, lobsters, octopie, juvenile fish, shrimp, inshore and offshore fish (seabass, grouper) (NOAA, 2019) flock to these oyster cages for shelter and feed off of the nutrients the oysters provide.
3.Oyster farms go through a rigorous process to obtain permits and licenses to run their farms. The permitting process takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months and goes through three separate government agencies (SCDNR, OCRM, and the Army Corps of Engineers). The total out of pocket cost just to submit a permit is around $8,000 which is non-refundable if the permit is denied.
These farms are fully sustainable, give back to the ecosystem, and provide jobs and money to the local (usually rural) economies in Charleston and the rest of the Lowcountry. The oysters coming out of the South Carolina oyster farms are world-class and are a favorite among dozens of restaurants in the state, giving locals and tourists a true taste of the Lowcountry.
As supporters of the mariculture industry – and the Lowcountry’s coastline - we want our voices heard by our representatives. We cannot and will not be drowned out by a loud minority armed with deep pockets and misinformation. Please sign this petition to show your support for our local oyster farmers! Let’s send a message loud and clear to our legislators: SAVE SOUTH CAROLINA OYSTERS
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