Dataw Conservancy Joins SCDNR on Oyster Reef Replenishment Project
About 20 Dataw Island members joined representatives from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to build an oyster reef on the north end of the island Monday afternoon. Forming an old-fashioned “bucket brigade” style line, the members moved well over 10,000 pounds of bagged shells to build a 65-foot reef.
“This is a labor-intensive project,” said Michael Hodges, the SCDNR coordinator. “We can’t do this with just our staff.”
George Cartledge, the onsite coordinator who is a member of the Dataw Island Conservancy was grateful to all the helping hands who came out on one of the hottest days of the year. “Even on a very hot and humid day, Dataw volunteers answered my request for ‘free labor’ and made this project possible. Thank you, volunteers!”
The Dataw Conservancy partnered with SCDNR as part of the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program (SCORE) program, a community-based habitat restoration and monitoring program. Nearly 20 years ago the first of five reef replenishment projects took place on Dataw. It, too, was along the coast of the fourteenth hole of the Morgan River golf course a little further up the coast, and it helped stabilize the area near the ruins of the Lewis Reeve Sam’s house, which were threatened to be lost to erosion.
Brian Hollingsworth, Director of Golf Course Maintenance, also volunteered to assist with the oyster reef build. “I really appreciate the efforts that our members contribute to preserving the island,” said Hollingsworth. “Oyster reefs are important to the integrity of our shoreline and aid in preserving the golf courses and the overall beauty of Dataw Island.”
In order to increase oyster habitat at the minimum cost to taxpayers, SCDNR initiated the SCORE program to encourage oyster shell recycling and conduct and oversee community-based restoration projects. By working together, community members and biologists work to restore oyster populations while enhancing habitat for fish, shrimp, and crabs; improving water quality of estuarine areas; and, informing and educating children, industry, and the general public.
“Our waters are rich with larval oysters, but we are substrate limited,” explained Hodges. “Our goal is to offer a firm foundation to give larval oysters a good place to land.” He noted that some areas have the opposite problem (they have habitat but need to farm and introduce live oysters) which is a costlier problem to solve.
Regardless of your culinary preference for mollusks such as oysters, their environmental impact is undeniable; the beds they form are very important to maintaining a healthy marine habitat and reducing erosion.
Oysters filter as much as 2.5 gallons of water an hour, removing silt and controlling phytoplankton – making the water cleaner and clearer. The shells placed on Monday are enough to support approximately 158,400 oysters who together will filter up to 396,000 gallons of water per hour. The oyster beds also act as “breakwaters,” protecting the shoreline by reducing wave energy, which in turn reduces erosion and helps increase the marsh footprint.
“The Conservancy will continue its efforts to identify, promote and perform activities that help to preserve and protect our beautiful island,” Cartledge states. And, the Conservancy is confident that Dataw will continue its support of these efforts.”
What can you do to help?
Consumers are encouraged to deposit clean shells (i.e., no trash) at the recycling centers, which are periodically emptied by SCDNR. The shell generated in this fashion is used for restoration and enhancement of shellfish resources, reducing the costs of these activities. Community groups and youth organizations may want to recycle shells as a community service project. There are a lot of shells out there (restaurants, caterers, resorts), so it is important to make the effort to recapture it before it goes to the landfill!