Local chefs have curated menus and shifted their sourcing so that you can still experience the best the Lowcountry has to offer, while giving a nod to the folks who have docked their boats across the harbor.
The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) draws a melting pot of people to Charleston: environmentalists, eco-tourists, and mostly, folks who’d rather think of themselves as “outdoorsmen.” Each group is on the front lines of habitat loss and fluctuating ecosystems. From hunting the nuisance armadillo, to modeling sea level rise for at-risk communities or joining a beach cleanup, we are all doing our part to protect what we love. Whether for hobby or career, these efforts are not just for the preservation of the land and seas around us — a lot of it has to do with a deep-seeded passion for our culture and heritage. And outdoorsmen are some of the most passionate when it comes to protecting our wild places.
When you come to the Holy City, though, are you bringing that passion with you? Are you living it? In many ways, the beauty and bounty of the Lowcountry is in the hands of the folks who visit Charleston for festivals like SEWE.
One of the areas that depends on your support, your passion, is our local seafood — namely, our marine habitats and the commercial fishing way of life. In Charleston, we’re proud that many of our local seafood businesses are multi-generational fishing families. I know SEWE visitors don’t need me to articulate the importance of flourishing ecosystems. You already know the interdependence of vibrant habitats and the preservation of these time-honored ways of life.
But these are both under siege by visitors who are on the hunt for a cheap bowl of shrimp and grits or a tilapia wrapped in a “Taco Tuesday” special. It’s no wonder your seafood gets cheaper by the dozen while fishing communities dwindle; oyster farms are struggling to source seed, farm-raised fish rule the menu, and a staggering 90 percent of shrimp come from overseas.
Here in Charleston, however, the tide is turning. We boast a growing network of conscientious chefs and seafood businesses that are paving the way for you to be a conservationist while you’re dining out. Splurging on date night and defending your passions don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Local chefs have curated menus and shifted their sourcing so that you can still experience the best the Lowcountry has to offer, while giving a nod to the folks who have docked their boats across the harbor. This is what conservation through food looks like.
Good Catch, a program of the South Carolina Aquarium, cultivates this seafood community that operates at the intersection of marine resource conservation and economic empowerment for small seafood businesses who are the lifeblood of the Lowcountry’s seafood heritage.
While you’re visiting, I encourage you to choose a restaurant that is part of the Good Catch family and ask for the (good) catch of the day. There’s a good chance it’s going to cost more than the antibiotic-dusted, farm-raised shrimp getting dished up down the street (that comes with a carbon footprint bigger than a Caribbean cruise vacation). However, know that each dollar spent on local seafood helps to rebuild our fishing community, preserve our culture, and ultimately, protect what we love.
Whether it’s your hobby or career that makes you a champion for wild places, your choice in what and where to eat will be part of your conservation efforts, too. Together we can make a significant impact that protects what we are all passionate about.
The Lowcountry thanks you.
Amy MacKown is the Good Catch coordinator at the South Carolina Aquarium. To find Good Catch partners, visit scaquarium.org/GoodCatch.
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