The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston is more than a fun place for families to spend the day; the aquarium is also committed to conservation of ocean habitats and encouraging the sustainable harvesting of seafood through its Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SSI), which began in 2002 in partnership with several other organizations. Sustainably harvesting fish and shellfish helps to prevent overfishing and damage to coral reefs. Using local products helps the local economy, ensures high standards and delivers the freshest seafood possible.
The Aquarium works with local food establishments to advise on which seafoods are considered sustainable and which should be avoided. Seafood retailers and restaurants who participate in the initiative make a pledge not to serve species whose populations are considered diminished or threatened. These off-limit species currently include orange roughy, Chilean sea bass and imported shark. Locally caught sharks, however, are considered sustainable because their populations are well managed. Participating eateries and retailers also agree to source local and domestic seafood.
The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston features regular events to support its SSI program, the most recent of which occurred at Folly Beach’s Blu Restaurant and Bar on September 27, 2011.
Local seafood — that which has been caught in Southeastern Atlantic waters of Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia — currently available in abundance includes:
- Clams (available year round)
- Blue crab (June – October)
- Southern flounder (September – November)
- King mackerel (available in moderation in October and abundantly available in November and December)
- Oysters (available in moderation in October and abundantly available November – February)
- Sheepshead (October – November)
- Rock shrimp (July – October)
- White shrimp (September – November)
- Swordfish (available in moderation in October and November and abundantly available in December and January)
- Gray triggerfish (available in moderation in October and abundantly available in November and December)
- Bigeye tuna (October and December with moderate availability in November)
- Yellowfin tuna (June – October)
- Wreckfish (moderately available from May – December).
The Aquarium’s website features a detailed chart of monthly seafood availability here.
Some favorite Charleston area restaurants recognized as members of the initiative include:
- The Atlantic Room (Kiawah Island restaurant)
- Blossom (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- The Boathouse at Breach Inlet (Isle of Palms restaurant)
- Carolina’s (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- Coast (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- Daniel Island Club
- Fish (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- Fleet Landing Restaurant (downtown Charleston)
- Husk (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- Hyman’s (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- Indigo (North Charleston restaurant))
- Middleton Place Restaurant (at the historic Middleton Place Plantation in West Ashley)
- Oak Steakhouse (downtown Charleston restaurant)
- Peninsula Grill (downtown Charleston restaurant).
For a full listing of participating restaurants and links, visit the South Carolina Aquarium’s website, which also includes Hilton Head, Beaufort, Grand Strand, Columbia and Upstate SSI restaurants.