“The Port Royal Sound embayment, from the ACE Basin to the Savannah River is the most pristine and biologically significant marine ecosystem on the East Coast. The Waddell Mariculture Center is the most important facility we citizens have to protect its health and we must enhance its role in our state’s fishing, boating and tourism economy.”
–Dave Harter, Vice Chairman, Hilton Head Reef Foundation
I run a charter boat company and manage the HHI Sea Turtle Protection Project along 14 miles of beach.
My volunteer work is my third job. When injured sea turtles need transport to the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston for rehabilitation or dolphins wash up on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton, who takes care of that?
I do, with the help of the Waddell Mariculture Research and Development Center.
If you have NEVER heard of Waddell Mariculture Center (WMC), let me start by saying that it is the ONLY facility like it in the United States.
And, yes, it is in Bluffton, South Carolina and has been for over 30 years! It is a research facility managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), where biologists have perfected methods for farm raising fish and shrimp. Individuals worldwide visit Waddell to collect information to successfully produce farm-raised seafood.
In addition to their primary mission, biologists at the center assist with other marine life issues in Beaufort County. There is a tight community of marine biologists and enthusiasts in this area—some have graduate degrees in marine science, some are charter boat companies that offer ecology tours, some are non-profit organizations and nature clubs and some are fishermen and boaters who pick up trash in the May River.
Here are just a few of the Waddell Mariculture Center’s achievements:
- Beaufort County has the best red drum fishery on the East Coast. Waddell’s red drum stock enhancement program stocks over 20 million fish in South Carolina waters. These fish populations are monitored using DNA technology developed by SCDNR.
- The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry awarded the center a grant for the purchase of new seawater filtration equipment to prepare water for the spawning tanks and recirculating systems.
- It has stocked a million spotted sea trout in Charleston waters over the past few years while developing a rapid response stock enhancement program to protect this fragile fishery from severe climate fluctuations and habitat degradation.
WMC received a research grant to monitor the effects of storm water on Beaufort County’s sensitive saltwater marsh.
- The Waddell Mariculture Center open their doors to students for tours and lectures. More than 500 students tour the center each year and biologists provided lectures and tours to more than 3,000 guests. Donations made to the Waddell Fund were used to support two full-time college internship positions this year. The center offers volunteer work to five college students working at least one day a week aiding biologists.
- WMC biologists assist SC seafood growers. They provide information and training to state residents when requested. This work is important. The United States now imports 91 percent of its seafood. Seafood farming accounts for 47% of all seafood. The center’s biologists assist state fish pond and coastal impoundment owners. They address management needs, including water quality, weed control and species management.
- The center is also part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Biologists provide aid and assistance to injured turtles, whales, dolphins, and birds.
Written by Amber Hester Kuehn, Marine Biologist. Owner, Spartina Marine Education Charters