South Carolina Aquaculture Potential

Much of the South Carolina coast, particularly the southern half, is laced with vast estuaries which create several thousand miles of shoreline along a coast which is only 200 miles long.

Land adjacent to estuaries is expensive but there are tracts adjacent to estuaries still being used for agriculture and silviculture. However, available tracts of land are often relatively small, perhaps 5 to 10 ha. and accessible land adjacent to the ocean beaches is developed for recreational and residential use.

Near-shore salinities are typically very high at 30 g/l with progressively lower salinities found inland towards the headwaters of the estuaries. Marine species could be grown as much as 20 miles from the coast. Annual precipitation and evaporation are 105 and 125 cm respectively.

Coastal water temperatures range from about 6 to 12°C during winter to almost 30°C in the summer. Water temperatures are generally above 20°C from mid-April through mid-October.

South Carolina has a long history of seafood production through coastal fisheries. Slowly, utilization of the fishery resources is shifting from commercial harvesting to recreational harvesting. However, some of the infrastructure for handling commercial quantities of seafood product is still intact. Many of the coastal aquaculture species are also harvested by local fisheries.

The WMC research and development approach can be generalized as follows:

  1. Adapt existing technology to the environmental and socioeconomic conditions in South Carolina,
  2. Perform economic and feasibility analyses and identify major constraints to increased profitability, and
  3. Modify the technology in response to those constraints.

With moderate agricultural land costs, land broken up into relatively small tracts, a labor force with skills in advanced agricultural mechanics, reasonable electrical rates, and generous supplies of saltwater, South Carolina is well-suited for intensive aquaculture development. The creation of new intensive closed system production systems for marine species has been a major research thrust at WMC.