Posted: March 23rd, 2012
Posted on Thu, Mar. 22, 2012
Man puts heart and soul into conservation, and mud
By Gregg By Holshouser
Murrells Inlet native Chris Hawley puts plenty of hours, not to mention heart and soul, into his duties as chairman of the Waccamaw Chapter and state board member of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina.
There are the meetings to plan and organize chapter events, endless calls to potential sponsors and, on the state level, duties associated with being on CCA SC’s state board. Hawley is extra busy this time of year planning the Waccamaw Chapter’s big fund-raising event, the annual Celebrating Conservation Banquet, which will be held outside at The Beaver Bar Pavilion at 3534 Highway 17 Business in Murrells Inlet next Friday, March 30.
But for Hawley, the most rewarding aspect of his many contributions to CCA is getting dirty – as in pluff-mud dirty.
“It’s fun to gather at the banquets, but it’s even more rewarding to get dirty in some pluff mud and make a difference,” said Hawley earlier this week.
Hawley speaks of excursions Waccamaw Chapter members make into Murrells Inlet to stomp through the pluff mud, oyster beds and Spartina grass to establish new oyster reefs as part of CCA’s Topwater Action Campaign.
In January, the chapter staged the first Lowcountry Oyster Roast and BBQ and it was a real success, with 375 locals generating over 30 bushels of recyclable oyster shell. In a few months, the shell from that event will be headed back home.
“In May, we will be hosting an oyster recycling event to put these shells, along with some others, back into Murrells Inlet,” said Hawley. “Our community does so much for CCA South Carolina, and we are pleased to open this event to the public to show what the efforts and money raised can provide here locally. It’s all about conservation for us, and this new oyster reef will provide so many benefits for our creeks in the inlet.”
The benefits of strategically returning used oyster shell to estuaries locally and along the coast are well-documented.
Oyster shell is the preferred and natural surface for spat, or oyster larvae, to attach to, creating new oysters and in turn new oyster beds. Oyster beds, of course, are the cornerstone, the foundation of the marine ecosystem in the Palmetto State’s estuaries.
The Topwater Action Campaign is CCA SC’s habitat program and its focus is not only on oyster shell recycling and oyster habitat creation and restoration but also creating and enhancing artificial reefs, improving water quality and providing education. Created in 2008, it gained immediate support from both state and regional agencies such as S.C. DNR along with private donors.
A few of the Topwater Action Campaign’s projects and accomplishments include:
• Over 40 oyster habitat projects completed along the South Carolina coast from Murrells Inlet to Beaufort since 2009.
• Funding for the Apache Pier Data Station in Myrtle Beach to aid in monitoring dissolved oxygen, water temperature and salinity levels. The station has helped identify hypoxia events that have occurred along the Grand Strand.
• Creation of the CCA McClellanville Reef 9 nautical miles off the coast consisting of two tug boats and bridge rubble from the Cooper River bridge.
• Over 14,000 bushels of oyster shells recycled since 2009.
• Acquired equipment needed to both recycle and distribute oyster reef material in isolated locations of the state’s estuaries including two 18-foot johnboats and two tandem axle trailers.
• In 2009 the program was selected to represent all of CCA in the prestigious Field & Stream Hero’s of Conservation Awards.
• In 2012 began the expansion of the state’s oyster recycling drop-off site program by creating the first oyster shell drop off sites in non-coastal counties.
“I want people to see CCA is not all about the banquets,” said Hawley. “We have these Topwater Action projects going on – we have a lot going on in conservation.”
Still, each chapter’s banquet provides a bulk of fund-raising for such projects.
This year’s banquet begins at 6 p.m. with an open bar and appetizers and dinner catered by the local Divine Dining Group. Some of the more popular items on the menu include what Hawley termed the “famed seared Ahi Tuna” along with shrimp and grits, fried Southern flounder, BBQ and chicken bog.
Attendees can bid on silent auction items and buy raffle tickets while enjoying drinks and dinner. The night will be capped off by a genuine live auction featuring marine-related items and various fishing and hunting trips.
For more information on tickets ($50 per person, $75 per couple), which include a year’s membership to CCA, or sponsorships contact Chris Hawley at 843-455-0371 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Early offshore action
There have been a number of offshore grand slams – including tuna, wahoo and dolphin – caught by offshore trolling boats in the last two weeks off the South Carolina coast. While it isn’t unusual for wahoo and blackfin tuna to be landed near the break and the Gulf Stream in mid-March, the presence of dolphin is unquestionably early.
Chalk it up as a benefit of the unseasonably warm weather enjoyed thus far in 2012.
“Fishing is good and the weather’s been really nice,” said Wallace Jenkins of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Program Director of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. “We usually do fairly well on wahoo in the spring but dolphin (are) early for sure. It’s unusual for dolphin to be out there. We’re off to a good start, with a lot of activity and a lot of people catching some nice fish.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced a few fisheries rules changes that will affect anglers in South Carolina waters. As of April 16, dolphin will be governed by a minimum size limit of 20 inches fork length for South Carolina. The same minimum size limit has already been in place in Florida and Georgia waters.
Also as of April 16, anglers will no longer be required to use circle hooks when fishing for sheepshead.
Light tackle fishing club
The Murrells Inlet Light Tackle Fishing Club will have its first meeting of the season at the Waccamaw Neck branch of Georgetown County Library in Pawleys Island, 24 Commerce Drive. The meeting is free and open to the public. The program for the evening will consist of Tackle Box talk with an emphasis on bottom fishing.
Contact GREGG HOLSHOUSER at 843-651-9028 or at email@example.com.
Posted: December 29th, 2011
January 20 &21
Marshall’s Marine Outdoor Expo
Lake City, SC
32nd Annual Charleston Boat Show
Grand Strand Boat & Sportsman Expo
Myrtle Beach, SC
Southeastern Wildlife Expo
Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
D. Scott Whitaker
Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina
3037-B McNaughton Dr.
Columbia, SC 29223
(803) 865-5104 fax