Truckload of garbage pulled from May River, old town

It is always great to hear stories like this of people donating their time while kayaking around Hilton Head and Bluffton area to help clean up the local environment. The sad thing about this is, that people have to donate their time since some will not be responsible for their own waste. Unfortunately, some of the waste can have negative effects to local wildlife and our environment.

Thank you to everyone out there who takes a little time to help keep our waterways a little cleaner and more enjoyable when out kayaking around Hilton Head and Bluffton area.

Story below…

Truckload of garbage pulled from May River, old town

Thong underwear, stove parts, a boat gas tank and hundreds of beer bottles were among debris collected Saturday from the May River and the streets of old town Bluffton.”There is an awful of garbage floating around out there,” said Dutch Shultis, head of the Kayak Club of Sun City. “Mostly bottles and cans.”Shultis and his friend, Gary Lausch, were among nearly 200 volunteers who donned gloves and in some cases life jackets and oars during the 12th annual May River Cleanup held at Oyster Factory Park.

Volunteers fanned out from Stock Farm Road to Alljoy Landing, while teams in kayaks and powerboats covered miles of shoreline and marsh in search of trash, said Kim Jones, water quality program manager for the town of Bluffton, the event’s main organizer.

“One good thing I am hearing from a lot of people is that it’s surprisingly clean,” she said, adding that volunteers collected two tons of trash in 2010 and about a ton during last year’s event.

This year’s haul filled a dump truck, but it will a few weeks before it’s weighed. Local artist Terry Brennan will use some heavy debris in an art project to be unveiled during a World Oceans Day event June 8.

Doug Currier II and his eight-year-old son Tripp paddled along a half mile stretch of river in search of trash. Team Currier found a balloon and some styrofoam dock pieces but little else.

“I enjoyed the time with my son, but cleaning up other people’s trash is not my idea of fun,” said Currier, who splits time between Bluffton and Columbia. “I like it when we don’t find much.”

After the cleanup, participants ate pulled pork from Bluffton BBQ and listened to live music.

An Environmental Education Fair set up in the park featured displays from a local organic farm and May River research conducted by University of South Carolina Beaufort students.

Sophomore Kelsey Metz said several people stopped by to ask questions about the research, which explores genetic changes in May River crabs, among other things. She and fellow students said the event helped show the impact humans are having on the environment.

Shrimp season officially under way in SC

Shortly, we will be seeing small shrimp run about in the creek as they come in to spawn. They lay their eggs around the mouth of the creek and they will float in with the tides and currents. They will grow in the protected creek for about 3 months at a rate of about 2 inches a month before they head out and back towards deeper water. When Kayaking around – in Jarvis Creek on Hilton Head we will see the small shrimp run along the shallow waters. This is also a great time to see birds wadding along the waters edge catching their meal.

Shrimp season officially under way in SC

Monday marked the first day of the 2012 shrimp season in South Carolina, as the S.C. Department of Natural Resources lifted its restrictions on provisional trawling areas.The areas are essentially pockets of open water about two to three miles offshore used by the DNR to gauge the shrimp fishery’s readiness for more extensive trawling closer to the coast.And although the areas make up only about 25 percent of the general trawl zone — which the DNR might not make available for another few weeks — local shrimpers like Larry Toomer of the Bluffton Oyster Co. said they’re glad to be back on the water.

“The first day coming out is always a blessing,” said Toomer, adding the day’s haul was about 1,000 pounds of white shrimp. “It turned out better than I anticipated.”

Because of an unusually mild winter, this year’s shrimp season arrived about two weeks earlier than normal. Last year, the restriction on provisional trawling areas wasn’t lifted until June 22.

Mel Bell, DNR director of fisheries management, said his agency decides when to open the season based on water temperature, citing its effects on the spawning behavior of shrimp.

“We’ve had accelerated warming of our coastal waters,” he explained, adding that those waters haven’t been as warm as they are this time of year since 1974.

The DNR will make the general trawl zone available only after monitoring hauls at statewide landings in the coming weeks to see how the spawn is progressing.

Bell added that shrimp are more commercially valuable than any other seafood caught in South Carolina, saying shrimpers sold more than $7 million of the shellfish dockside in 2011.

William Gay of Gay Fish Co. in northern Beaufort County said he was glad this year’s haul was under way.

“We’ve got four boats on the water right now,” he said Monday afternoon. “It would surprise me if we didn’t do well today.”

Two years after the Gulf Oil Accident

Two years after the Gulf Oil Accident.

Watching some of the news lately about the anniversary of the gulf oil spill and being the type of environment we are in is similar. Kayaking in Hilton Head by oysters beds, seeing small shrimp run along the shallows of the creek, fish and other wildlife out here. You are reminded on how important these estuaries are and how easily they can be affected. With a growing world population now over 7 Billion people, these areas provide jobs, food and ecosystem which benfits us in many ways.

Video from a CNBC, below.

Below a story in the paper.

2 years later, fish sick near BP oil spill site

BARATARIA BAY, La. —

Open sores. Parasitic infections. Chewed-up-looking fins. Gashes. Mysterious black streaks. Two years after the drilling-rig explosion that touched off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, scientists are beginning to suspect that fish in the Gulf of Mexico are suffering the effects of the petroleum.The evidence is nowhere near conclusive. But if those suspicions prove correct, it could mean that the environmental damage to the Gulf from the BP disaster is still unfolding and the picture isn’t as rosy as it might have seemed just a year ago.And the damage may extend well beyond fish. In the past year, research has emerged showing deep-water coral, seaweed beds, dolphins, mangroves and other species of plants and animals are suffering.”There is lots of circumstantial evidence that something is still awry,” said Christopher D’Elia, dean of Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and Environment. “On the whole, it is not as much environmental damage as originally projected. Doesn’t mean there is none.”Reports of strange things with fish began emerging when fishermen returned to the Gulf weeks after BP’s gushing oil well was capped during the summer of 2010. They started catching grouper and red snapper with large open sores and strange black streaks, lesions they said they had never seen. They promptly blamed the spill.The illnesses are not believed to pose any health threat to humans. But the problems could be devastating to some prized types of fish and to the people who make their living catching them.

There’s no saying for sure what’s causing the diseases in what is still a relatively small percentage of the fish. The Gulf is assaulted with all kinds of contaminants every day. Moreover, scientists have no baseline data on sick fish in the Gulf from before the spill. The first comprehensive research may be years from publication.

Still, it’s clear to fishermen and researchers alike that something’s amiss.

– A recent batch of test results revealed the presence of oil in the bile extracted from fish caught in August 2011, nearly 15 months after the well blew out on April 20, 2010, in a disaster that killed 11 men.

“Bile tells you what a fish’s last meal was,” said Steve Murawski, a marine biologist with the University of South Florida and former chief science adviser for the National Marine Fisheries Service. “There was as late as August of last year an oil source out there that some of those animals were consuming.”

Bile in red snapper, yellow-edge grouper and a few other species contained on average 125 parts per million of naphthalene, a compound in crude oil, Murawski said. Scientists expect to find almost none of the substance in fish captured in the open ocean.

– Last summer, a federally funded team of scientists conducted what experts say is the most extensive study yet of sick fish in shallow and deep Gulf waters. Over seven cruises in July and August, the scientists caught about 4,000 fish, from Florida’s Dry Tortugas to Louisiana.

About 3 percent of the fish had gashes, ulcers and parasites symptomatic of environmental contamination, according to Murawski, the lead researcher. The number of sick fish rose as scientists moved west away from the relatively clean waters of Florida, and also as they pushed into deeper waters off Alabama, Mississippi and especially Louisiana, near where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank.

About 10 percent of mud-dwelling tile fish caught in the DeSoto Canyon, to the northeast of the well, showed signs of sickness.

“The closer to the oil rig, the higher the frequency was” of sick fish, Murawski said.

Past studies off the Atlantic Seaboard found about 1 percent of fish suffering from diseases, Murawski said. But he said that figure cannot really be used for comparisons with the Gulf, whose warmer waters serve as an incubator for bacteria and parasites that can cause lesions and other illnesses.

– Laboratory work over the past winter on the USF samples indicates the immune systems of the fish were impaired by an unknown environmental stress or contamination. Other researchers say they have come to similar conclusions.

“Some of the things I’ve seen over the past year or so I’ve never seen before,” said Will Patterson, a marine biologist at the University of South Alabama and at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “Things like fin rot, large open sores on fish, those were some of the more disturbing types of things we saw. Different changes in pigment, red snapper with large black streaks on them.”

Teasing out what might have been caused by the spill and what is normal will be tricky, and that’s the challenge scientists now face. Deformities, diseases and sudden shifts in fish numbers are regular occurrences in nature. For example, scientists are not sure what to make of reports from fishermen of eyeless or otherwise deformed shrimp and crabs.

“I’ve heard everything but shrimp with two heads,” said Jerald Horst, a marine biologist retired from LSU AgCenter who writes books about the Gulf. “I listen respectfully. Reports can be useful but are not proof in themselves of cause and effect.”

Even if oil were pinpointed as the cause, it could be difficult to definitively tie the problem to the BP spill. The Gulf is strewn with wells, pipelines, natural oil leaks from the seafloor, and pollution from passing ships. And muddy, contaminant-laden water flows constantly into the Gulf from the Mississippi River.

Still, the more scientists look – thanks to millions of dollars in research money, much of it coming from a fund set up by BP for independent research – the more they’re finding that may be off-kilter.

For example, last year scientists with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette took cruises in search of crabs, lobsters and seaweed they had been studying in the waters not far from the BP well. They found a surprising lack of diversity.

There saw less seaweed and fewer crabs, lobsters and other forms of life. Also, crustaceans they pulled up had lesions, lost appendages and black gunk on their gills, said Darryl Felder, a biologist at ULL. He said the black coating may be associated with the large amounts of drilling mud used to try to plug the leaking well.

In Barataria Bay, which was hit hard by the spill, scientists say they found dolphins that were anemic and showing signs of liver and lung disease. Those problems have not been linked to the spill. But in the same bay, scientists say they have linked oil contamination to genetic changes in bait fish known as killifish.

Near the BP well, scientists have found a dying community of deep-sea coral. The scientists recently published findings linking its demise to oil that was chemically fingerprinted as having come from the BP well.

Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advised fishermen to throw suspicious-looking fish back, and fishermen say they have been doing that. At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration and state agencies say they have tested Gulf seafood extensively and found no problems, and researchers agree there is little cause for concern.

“It’s not a people issue, and people should not be concerned about fish entering the market,” Murawski said.

For the second year, fishermen like Wayne Werner, who catches red snapper commercially, are calling in with reports of lesions. He and others said they want to get to the bottom of the problem, which is forcing them to take longer trips to fishing spots outside the spill zone and making them fear for their livelihoods.

“Every time we talked about bad fish, everybody kind of went nuts on us. Just like, ‘You’re hearsaying,’ you know? And we’re saying, ‘Well, they’re there,'” the Louisiana boat captain said this week. “They’re still there. Now that the water is getting warm again, we’re starting to see more and more again.”

 

 

Soft shell crab: Get it while you can at Port Royal festival

Crawling around the mud banks just below the water along the edge of Jarvis Creek in Hilton Head Island while kayaking or canoeing, you may see Blue Crab. While you kayak in Jarvis Creek on Hilton Head, you may notice floating markers which may go to someone’s crab traps. Many enjoy eating Blue Crab in various forms, but one way some enjoy them is during the molting stage. This is when the blue crab losses its shell (becoming a soft shell crab) in order to grow larger since they are exoskeleton. Also during this time, is the only time they are able to mate is when the female is a soft shell crab. The male will help feed and defend her during this time until her new hard shell develops and they separate ways.

 

Soft shell crab: Get it while you can at Port Royal festival

The situation might seem perplexing to the novice. The crab looks like, well, a crab. And the expectation is to eat it. All of it. Even the legs.But don’t fear. It is a crab. But a crab mallet won’t be necessary. This is a special kind of crab. It is a soft shell crab.

The soft shell crab can look intimidating at first. After all, a blue crab isn’t the friendliest looking creature. But if you can get over any initial reluctance, a treat is in store that, when you get down to it, isn’t all that difficult to make yourself.

Blue Crabs

“Some people do get nervous,” said Craig Reaves, owner of Sea Eagle Market. “The majority, though, understand the delicacy that soft shell crabs are.”

The opportunity for soft shell crab is quick. It only comes once a year. And that time is now. The ninth annual Soft Shell Crab Festival on April 21 in Port Royal is a chance to savor these delicacies. But if you’re unfamiliar, let us introduce you.

What the heck is it?

A soft shell crab is just a blue crab that has lost its shell. It needs to do this to grow. When the water starts to warm in the spring, the crab sheds its old shell. In a matter of days, it will have a new hardened shell to fit its body. So, timing is of the essence to get the crab after the molting before the new shell begins to form.

Try them yourself

Many restaurants offer soft shell crab on the menu this time of season, but cooking them yourself is doable. Pick up crabs at Port Royal Seafood, Bluffton Oyster Company, Sea Eagle Market or any number of seafood markets in the Lowcountry. First you’ll have to clean them. Cut off the eyes and mouth, the gills and the tail fin. A cleaned crab can be ready to prepare. Reaves recommends just pan-frying or sauteing them. Soak in evaporated milk beforehand. Dredge each crab in flour and then cook with butter in a pan. The cooking process only takes about six minutes. Easy enough.

Get creative

As evidenced at the festival, soft shell crab doesn’t just have to be that. Crab grinders, crab BLTs, crab and grits … the list goes on. Patricia Branning, Beaufort author of “Shrimp, Collards & Grits,” grew up eating soft shell crabs. She recommends buying fresh, local soft shells. The crabs can be frozen, but they will lose a bit of their sweet flavor. Branning suggests a simple preparation, dressed up depending on your taste. Below is her recipe for sautèed soft shell crabs

Marine life: Former serviceman finds success, peace of mind on flourishing oyster farm

Kayaking in Jarvis Creek on Hilton Head Island, we glide by several oysterbeds. Sometimes they are below us under the water, open and feeding from / filtering the creek while fish swim by and stone claw crabs crawl around them. Other times we pass by them as they are exposed along the banks and the birds pick around their beds.  On an outgoing tide we see them shoot water up a few inches above their shell as they are going into the close up process as they wait for the next tide to cover them so they can open and filter again.

Being that we see them and some of us enjoy them, I thought this following article would be interesting.

Marine life: Former serviceman finds success, peace of mind on flourishing oyster farm

Frank Roberts doesn’t look like a man on the precipice of culinary notoriety.

Wearing three days of stubble and a camouflaged cap tugged low over his eyes, he keeps a firm hand on the outboard motor of his weathered 20-foot boat, piloting it over the calm waters of the Coosaw River.

He doesn’t look like a former Marine, either.

Marine Life

But looks can be deceiving.

The oysters Roberts has farmed for several years along the northwestern shore of Lady’s Island recently won a taste test staged for several high-end restaurants in Chicago against competitors from around the country.

The victory catapulted his operation — Lady’s Island Oyster Farm — into prominence among restaurants far more upscale than the local farmers markets he usually attends.

He hopes to start selling his oysters at those restaurants by the start of the summer and to get a higher price than local establishments offer.

“Trying to sell them here is like trying to sell ice to an Eskimo,” he says with a laugh.

Roberts, 49, maintains any windfall won’t change him. He’s doing something he knew he wanted to do the moment he first laid eyes on the area as a young recruit at Parris Island, he says.

LONG-AWAITED SATISFACTION

While Roberts’ days now are sun-soaked and stress-free, they haven’t always been.

One October day in 1983, he left his barracks near the Beirut airport on a covert mission as a sniper.

Two days later, a terrorist drove an explosives-filled truck into those barracks, killing 220 Marines and 95 percent of Roberts’ unit.

The tragedy redoubled Roberts’ determination to return to Beaufort and start a different, more peaceful career as an oyster farmer.

He’d grown up along the East Coast, helping harvest oysters in Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, and knew the Lowcountry was a uniquely fertile area to farm them.

“In other places, they’re grown in rivers flowing from cities to the ocean,” Roberts explains. “Here, we’ve got these estuaries flowing from the Atlantic, so the water’s much cleaner.”

Through years of trial and error, Roberts came to perfect a unique method that produces large individual oysters — “single ladies,” he’s taken to calling the ones from his farm — instead of the clusters that dominate the local market.

He plants thousands of bamboo poles in the pluff mud to stabilize and nurture beds of young oysters, which he then plucks and places into tubes of thick plastic mesh.

Planting Oysters

The tubes keep out mud and predators and can be placed at varying depths to maximize the oysters’ exposure to aquatic nutrients such as phytoplankton.

The resulting oysters, some of which Roberts and his assistant Sean O’Connell pulled from the Coosaw last Thursday, are plump and enormous.

“These are restaurant quality!” Roberts boasts, examining one in the afternoon sunlight.

That satisfaction pales, he said later, to what he felt when his brother Ross decided to retire from the Marines after 26 years and move to Lady’s Island to help with the farm.

“It’s nice,” Roberts says softly, when asked what it’s like to finally work with his brother. “We’re having fun.”

‘AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME’

Several years ago, Roberts approached the S.C. Department of Natural Resources with a question: How could he get started farming oysters?

He laughs again as he recalls their response: “We were hoping you could tell us.”

The department had been hoping to lease some of its land for that purpose, said DNR spokesman Lee Taylor, who worked with Roberts on his lease.

“Oyster farming helps stimulate the local ecosystem,” he said, citing the purifying effects of oysters’ filtration systems and the restrictions on shoreline development the lease would mandate. “It really doesn’t have a negative impact.”

Doing it successfully isn’t easy, however, and requires years of patience and precision.

Consequently, Taylor says farmed oysters represent “no more than a drop in the bucket statewide.”

The vast majority — Roberts estimates 95 percent — of commercially available oysters statewide are harvested in clusters from naturally formed beds.

Taylor said he’s impressed with Roberts’ operation, saying he’s “at the top of his game” as a farmer.

Roberts shrugs off the compliment as easily as he dismissed the thought that an impending fortune might change his lifestyle.

“No matter what, I’m still going to be in this boat,” he says, patting its side for emphasis. “Why would I change anything?”

Kayaking Hilton Head and more.

Kayaking Hilton Head and More…

Time to get out in the water and have fun kayaking Hilton Head or hydro-biking.

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We were lucky this year, or not, depending how you feel about winter. For the warmer outdoor enthusiast, it has been a great spring time so far. Great weather as in not to cool where you do not enjoy yourself and not to hot as it starts to heat up going into summer. Can we say, “perfect weather for kayaking on Hilton Head” any better? We have been out and about in kayaking Hilton Head’s Jarvis Creek. Also, let not forget, hydro-biking as well.  Experiencing nature at its finest observing; dolphins, young birds, fish jumping, fiddler crabs crabs among other wildlife emerging from the winter’s rest thus far. One of the down sides though to warmer water is also the sights of jelly fish which have been spotted trapped in the grasses of the creek as the tides head out or along the beaches of Hilton Head. Vinegar is handy and a lot of times lifeguard stands along the beach will have it to help with jellyfish stings.

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Jarvis Creek Water Sports on Hilton Head has been out on the water this spring with kayak renters, kayak tours and hydro-biking. We are a small outfit which has been in business for close to 15 years providing a fun family experince. If you would like to join us for a relaxing, non-stressful experience in small groups (upto 10 in a tour) in Kayaking Hilton Head’s Jarvis Creek, call us at 843-681-9260 for an appointment between Monday – Friday on first come first served bases or you can sign up with the Coastal Discovery Museum with their reserved kayak tour spot Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 10 – 12.

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