Cast & Blast

SC Lowcountry at its finest: A Taste of Waddell. The NEW Waddell

It’s been quite some time since I have mentioned the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton.

Well, folks, the time has come to give you an update on this amazing facility and, at the same time, invite you to attend this year’s “Taste Of Waddell” to be held on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Before I give you all the tasty tidbits about that event, you need to know that the long overdue renovation of Waddell is inches from being completed.

From top to bottom, the facility has not only been restored to its original beauty, it is better!

New offices, new floors, new everything — but most exciting to me, at least, is the wet lab where Waddell’s most important task starts.

What is a wet lab you ask? Simply put, it is where all the tanks are kept that house juvenile redfish, trout, cobia and other species for study and eventual release into our waters and other areas up the coast.

Since I have had access to this area for years now, it still amazes me that a redfish or trout no longer than your pinky can grow into a fish as long as your arm in one year’s time. Using DNA and other radically experimental procedures, the staff at Waddell has successfully raised and released over 20 million redfish into our coastal waters.

In Port Royal Sound, for instance, 261,000 redfish were released there in just the past year. As for spotted sea trout, the tanks are currently chock full of young trout and, in the Charleston area, over 1 million have been released to help keep stocks healthy.

Then there are cobia.

Since I serve as our representative on the South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Board that deals with cobia and mackerel stocks, I can tell you that because of DNA studies, carcass examinations and tagging programs by Waddell, South Carolina is way ahead of all coastal states when it comes to understanding these popular gamefish.

With that said, due to contributions from the nonprofit Friends of Waddell and the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Waddell now has in its wet lab a huge maturation tank that houses brood-stock cobia. The tank mimics light conditions and water temperatures that induce spawning.

Once up and running Waddell will be able to raise thousands, if not millions, of cobia that will be released into state waters. Even genetically-pure cobia that inhabit Port Royal Sound will be tops on the list for this new tank.

With all new facilities, even tripletail are on the list of species they hope to study and breed. I was glad to help their biologists catch the first tripletail to be used in this ambitious study. As far as I know, no other facility anywhere has attempted this.

I realize many of you who are relative newcomers to the Lowcountry probably had no idea that this incredible facility exists right here in Bluffton.

With that said, you are precisely the people who should attend the Taste Of Waddell event at the center on Sawmill Creek Road.

Held on the Waddell’s bluff overlooking the Colleton River, it is a taste of the Lowcountry at its very best. Marvelous seafood culinary creations prepared by Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks will be aplenty. Add music by Lowcountry Boil bluegrass band, libations and a sunset bonfire to make this my favorite event of the year.

The new staff at Waddell that includes director Erin Levesque along with biologists Jason Broach and Jake Morgenstern will be hosting tours of the new facility, answering questions and creating displays to further explain just how fragile our local ecosystem is and why the work done there is so important for the health of our waters for generations to come.

Tours of the new facility and wet lab will be available every 15 minutes starting at 3 p.m. One thing, though, due to their bio-secure policy, no open-toe shoes may be worn in the wet lab.

Tickets are $40 per person (beer, wine and oysters extra) with the majority of funds raised going toward keeping the Waddell Mariculture Center a jewel here in the Lowcountry.

For additional information and reservations, go online to www.friendsofwaddell.org or contact Dave Harter at 843-785-4106 or e-mail him at: dharter@hargray.com.

Lastly, all contributions to the Waddell Fund are tax-deductible and there is no more worthy organization to give to if you want to keep our waters vibrant and healthy.

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