Social Carrying Capacity of Mariculture in South Carolina

William C. Norman, Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management, Clemson University

06 March 2020

The growth of oyster mariculture presents a valuable opportunity to build on South Carolina’s coastal seafood history, create and retain jobs in coastal communities, enhance local seafood supply and provide critical ecosystem services. However, recent efforts to expand aquaculture production in South Carolina, as well as in other U.S. seaside communities, suggest coastal landowner opposition is a threat to expansion. Understanding resident and visitor concerns and improving communications with these stakeholders could be critical to the acceptance of larger scale mariculture development. Underlying the potential for opposition is the lack of information on the social carrying capacity for oyster mariculture on the South Carolina  coast. Social carrying capacity is the amount and type of use that an area can accommodate without unacceptably degrading cultural or community elements (i.e., view sheds and recreational behavior). Limited research has examined social carrying capacity as it relates to the expansion of mariculture in the U.S. This presentation presents the preliminary results from our study that examined the social carrying capacity for expansion of oyster mariculture in Beaufort and Charleston counties. Specifically, I will present the results of Phase 1 qualitative study that identified issues, factors, variables, and attributes influencing stakeholder perceptions and attitudes towards the expansion of oyster mariculture and the results of the Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) process used to map coastal landscape values. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of the quantitative social carrying capacity field study that will be implemented this spring and summer.