South Carolina

South Carolina’s Crab Bank island bird sanctuary is disappearing. Here’s how to help

SC’s Crab Bank isn’t just for the birds. Here’s how its erosion could hurt the coast

Crab Bank is a small island just off the coast of Mount Pleasant, S.C., and used to be a huge nesting site for shorebirds. But erosion is quickly making the island disappear — and Audubon South Carolina says its loss can hurt more than the birds.
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Crab Bank is a small island just off the coast of Mount Pleasant, S.C., and used to be a huge nesting site for shorebirds. But erosion is quickly making the island disappear — and Audubon South Carolina says its loss can hurt more than the birds.

Crab Bank was once home to almost 4,000 nesting birds over more than 18 acres in the Charleston harbor, but now it’s shrunk to a sliver of sand and 2018 marked the first year no birds nested there, according to the Post and Courier.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a plan to rebuild the man-made island as it dredges the harbor starting later this year, according to the Coastal Conservation League. Local organizations and the state government need to raise $1.5 million to help pay for the work of rebuilding the bird sanctuary, CCL explains. And they need to raise that money by December.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing South Carolina this week donated $100,000 to the effort, bringing the total to about $365,000, according to the Post & Courier.

CCL Executive Director Laura Cantral said the fundraiser was “gaining momentum,” according to the newspaper. “I know this community won’t let this opportunity slip by,” she said, the Post and Courier reports.

The Crab Bank bird sanctuary “served as a thriving rookery for thousands of Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers, Royal Terns and other coastal birds,” according to Audubon South Carolina. It is owned by the state and part of South Carolina’s Heritage Trust Program.

The organization explains: “In the face of erosion from increasing wakes and a series of intense hurricanes, this designated Seabird Sanctuary and Important Bird Area is now underwater at high tide—with 2018 marking the first year in Crab Bank’s history with zero nests.”

Last month about 200 kayakers paddled to the island to show support for rebuilding Crab Bank, according to WCSC.

“2018 goes on record as the first year since anybody living can remember that no birds were able to nest on Crab Bank Island,” Coastal Expeditions owner Chris Crolley told the station. “That’s a huge loss for those shore birds,” he said, according to WCSC.

On its site, Coast Expeditions, which leads tours to the island, writes: “We can save Crab Bank if we come together as a community. As the Lowcountry grows in population, we are losing our wild places. It is up to us to decide the vision we want for Charleston and the towns that surround it.”

“What can you do? Tell people about Crab Bank. Contact local representatives. Donate,” Coastal Expeditions notes. People can donate online through Audubon South Carolina or Coastal Expeditions.

In addition to providing nesting habitat to birds, a rebuilt Crab Bank can help protect the Mt. Pleasant shoreline from storms and erosion, Audubon South Carolina explains in a recent Facebook video.

Charles Duncan: 843-626-0301, @duncanreporting

Port Royal's Cypress Wetlands are among The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette's list of the Lowcountry's 10 Best Birding Spots. Ken Scott of the Fripp Island Audubon Club explains the unique setting that in spring supports a large rookery of

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