This past Sunday I attended the fundraiser, A Taste of Waddell. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a huge supporter of Waddell Mariculture Center and the work they do to keep our waters some of the healthiest on the East Coast. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to rain on this parade, keeping the number of attendees at a minimum.
What did you miss? How about fresh May River oysters steamed to perfection by the Bluffton Marine Rescue Squadron, a feast of Waddell home-grown shrimp prepared several unique (and delicious) ways by Mike Sigler of Sigler's Rotisserie and deals of the century in a silent auction that offered everything from charter fishing trips to weekend golf packages. There was even live music by my boys in Lowcountry Boil.
So, in other words, you really missed it.
Next year we will have it again but for right now I want to concentrate on why the Waddell Mariculture Center needs this community's support. You don't have to be a fisherman to adopt this cause because the research Waddell does benefits each and every one of you in ways that are vital to the lifestyle that is such a large part of why you live here. They are on the front line, monitoring water quality and making recommendations on development standards that might otherwise compromise our waters and our wetlands.
Have you ever taken the time to tour the Waddell Mariculture Center? It truly is an inspiring place with even more inspiring personnel. Located on Sawmill Creek Road, the entrance might look intimidating with signs saying "this is a bio-secure facility," along with an imposing metal gate, but once you cross that barrier, you'll find the people who work there are some of the friendliest and most accommodating around. From the biologists to the groundskeepers, every single person will drop everything to make you feel at home.
To further educate you on what goes on behind those gates, how about these statistics: In the past year alone they have released more than 700,000 redfish in Port Royal Sound, along with 700,000 spotted sea trout and 4,000 cobia. Add to those, 50,000 striped bass, plus all the water monitoring and fish-sampling studies. The real mind blower is that this is all done by a handful of people, with Al Stokes, Waddell's director, leading the pack.
Here's why I'm turning up my passionate plea for this place: Yes, it is state funded, but the amount of funding it receives has been slashed year after year. Why? If you think about it, the upland counties of South Carolina don't give a hoot about some place on the coast, even though every visitor from these counties who comes here to fish or shrimp goes home with coolers full of seafood that is, in part, the direct result of the work done by Waddell.
You just have to love the mentality of these politicians who never consider these facts.
It is up to us here in the Lowcountry to make the Waddell Mariculture Center our baby, our crown jewel. For instance, right now there is a huge need for contributions to fix structural problems at Waddell. The buildings are old and, in the main facility especially, the ceiling is literally falling down. The money to fix the problem is simply not there. I know there are some of you out there who have the time and money to help, and I beg you to take on this project. Even if some of you can only donate $10 or $20, it will be a donation that ensures this facility will continue to make our local waters the pride of this state.
If you should decide to take on this project, you can do it two ways. Contact Al Stokes at 843-837-3795 or go to the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry site at www.cf-lowcountry.org/home, where you can make a tax deductible donate to the Waddell Mariculture Fund.
They need our help right now and if doesn't come from right here in our community, I can assure you it won't come from the state.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.