This is an organization whose members don't mind getting practically knee-deep in pluff mud to get the job done - whatever it takes to enhance, conserve and protect South Carolina's treasured marine resources.
The members of the Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina will host its annual fundraising banquet Saturday, March 24 at Sunnyside Plantation in Murrells Inlet, on the banks of the same estuary where they have virtually wallowed in the pluff mud to build and enhance oyster reefs to help improve water quality.
"We like to have a good time, fish, and have a good banquet but we also like to get down and dirty for marine conservation, especially in our Murrells Inlet," said Chris Hawley, Waccamaw Chapter Chairman.
The Waccamaw Chapter is one of 14 local chapters within CCA South Carolina, which, when founded in 1986, marked the first CCA state chapter established along the East Coast north of Florida.
Obviously, the Waccamaw Chapter is very active in S.C. DNR’s South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program in conjunction with CCA’s Topwater Action Campaign.
The partner programs are focused on improving and maintaining water quality in the estuaries along the South Carolina coast, particularly by placing used oyster shell in strategic locations to build new oyster reefs or enhance existing ones.
CCA SC members and volunteers have put several oyster reefs in place in Murrells Inlet, plus established the program's first oyster reef in Georgetown’s Winyah Bay.
The benefits of strategically returning used oyster shell to estuaries 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 are the critical foundation of the marine ecosystem in our estuaries along the Palmetto State’s coast.
CCA SC's Topwater Action Campaign deals with more than oyster reefs, though. The program also is involved in helping create and enhance near-shore and offshore artificial reefs, improving and monitoring water quality, providing education on the state’s marine environment and scientific research.
With fishing pressure on the saltwater scene at unprecedented levels throughout the Southeast, CCA SC is heavily involved in the state's saltwater fisheries legislation, serving as a watchdog and pushing for needed changes to protect valuable fish or other marine species.
The organization has been instrumental in spearheading current legislation that has designs on reducing the daily bag limit and banning gigging of red drum, widely considered the most important species that inhabits South Carolina estuaries.
The setting for the banquet is perfect, under the mossy oaks at Sunnyside Plantation, on the waterfront in the heart of Murrells Inlet. You may even see a tailing redfish in the shallows from the banquet site.
The event gets underway off at 6 p.m. on March 24, starting with a social hour during which attendees can enjoy an open bar, bid on silent-auction items and enter raffles.
Dinner, featuring seared tuna, shrimp and grits, a fajitas bar and wings among other items, is next.
The night is capped by a live auction, which will feature various hunting and fishing trips among other items.
"We've got a loaded silent auction, a very good general raffle and some outstanding new trips in the live auction," said Hawley.
Tickets are $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available starting at $300.
If you go
What: Coastal Conservation Association Waccamaw Chapter's Annual Banquet.
Where: Sunnyside Plantation, located at 3741 Hwy. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet.
When:Saturday, March 24, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available.