Residents of Dataw Island are Making a Difference

If we were to write a love letter to the Lowcountry oyster (Crassostrea virginica), surely we would thank it for its deliciousness and beyond its euphoric taste, its ability to filter our waterways and protect our banks from erosion.  We have burned its shells to fertilize our fields and for centuries have crushed them to build our grand ante-bellum homes and pave 19th-century roads and driveways.  But now we understand never to over-harvest our banks and to recycle our shells to help regrow beds that have been depleted.  We can be thankful we have learned our lessons and will never take it for granted that oysters are an endless natural resource. Thankfully we have a wave of sustainable harvesters who are taking the lead in establishing a good relationship with these bivalves.

We can thank many of the residents of our Sea Islands that they, too, are taking steps to preserve oysters for future generations. Last summer residents of Dataw Island on St. Helena joined representatives from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to build an oyster reef on the north end of the island.  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 was a labor-intensive project,” said Michael Hodges, the SCDNR coordinator. “We could not have accomplished 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. “It was those Dataw volunteers who made this project possible. 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.”

The good people of the Dataw Historic Foundation (DHF) are this year celebrating 20 years of preservation and conservation efforts and have recently expanded their efforts with a new interpretive center. The opening of the History and Learning Center is a capstone in the educational and preservation efforts of the DHF, housing the island’s historic artifacts and offering interpretation. One of the highlights of the display is the history of Dataw from the Native American Era up to the present and a scale model of the original plantation house.

And Dataw Island residents will once again be hosting the Annual Homes for the Holidays Tour!

Mark your calendars for November 16 through 18. Save the date! It all benefits  St.Peter’s Catholic School, commemorating 27 years of education. This year’s tour will feature 7 private homes and Sam’s Plantation Tabby Ruins, all decorated for the Holidays by talented, local designers. No doubt, this festive setting will put you in the mood for the coming holiday season and give you plenty of fresh ideas for your own holiday decor. Dataw Island is located on St. Helena Island, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Other human heroes of the oyster world are folks like Craig Reaves of Sea Eagle Market, Cyrus Buffum of Seaborn Oyster Co., and Jeff Spahr of Charleston Oyster Company. These men cultivate the oyster beds along the intracoastal waterways to produce wild singles and their techniques include leaving young oysters unharvested to grow for the future and re-shelling the banks to attract new life.  Frank Roberts, a former Marine who now works with Lady’s Island Oyster, has even developed an oyster that can be harvested year-round.