A shrimp dinner on a bluff overlooking the Colleton River by the Waddell Mariculture Center could help researchers better understand popular local fish.
The fourth annual Taste of Waddell, sponsored by the Friends of Waddell, will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday. It will help pay for a study on Port Royal Sound's adult red drum, as well as benefit cobia, sea trout and programs to improve the red drum stock.
The fundraiser is an important supplement to the center's "bare-bones" budget, which includes revenue from saltwater fishing licenses, grants and other donations, center manager Al Stokes said.
Last year's event allowed the center in greater Bluffton to replace seawater pumps, aerators and other types of equipment that can't be purchased with grants, Stokes said.
This year, proceeds will also go toward a project that studies adult red drum, some of which may have started life in the stock-enhancement ponds at Waddell.
The adult red drum study, started in 2007, is led by retired S.C. Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Glenn Ulrich. Working with charter boat captains in the fall, when large red drum come into the sounds from offshore to spawn, Ulrich implants microchips, collects DNA samples and records other data.
The study might one day be used to evaluate the red drum population, develop management practices and reveal, among other things, how many are wild and how many came from Waddell, according to Dave Harter, chairman of the Port Royal Sound Foundation, which is funding the study.
"Adult red drum are great fun to fish for, but you can't keep them because they're federally protected," Harter said. "This is a great collaborative effort to get local fishermen involved in research projects."
Local anglers will also play a part at the fundraiser. Participants in the raffle and silent auction could win a free fishing trip with a charter captain.
Tours of Waddell Mariculture Center, a shrimp dinner, a band and staff explanations of research projects will be included.
Stokes said the economic decline has led to staff cuts and less money for the center.
"It's been significant," Stokes said. "But the good thing is, we are still able to do our work. We've got friends in the community."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.