Here’s your chance to help save a key seabird sanctuary in the heart of Charleston Harbor.
About $1.25 million needs to be raised by December to ensure Crab Bank is restored as part of the harbor’s larger dredging project. But that’s only $10 each from 125,000 donors, or $25 each from 50,000 donors, so we want to help pass the hat.
Businesses that want to see their names associated with a worthy cause shouldn’t be shy. The State Ports Authority has committed $10,000 to help rebuild Crab Bank and $10,000 a year through 2027 to support a statewide campaign aimed at maintaining seabird rookeries.
It’s a now-or-never campaign. The sandbar-cum-island, one of just five protected rookeries statewide, has been a prime nesting spot for pelicans and more than a dozen other species of sea- and shorebirds for decades, but its high ground has been washed over at high tide since Tropical Storm Irma. No birds have nested there this year. And the money needs to be raised by the time the dredges now working the outer harbor work their way up the channel early next year.
Rebuilding the island to nearly 30 acres of high ground would make it suitable for as many as 5,000 nesting birds. Between 2009 and 2017, Crab Bank was home to about 4,000 pelican nests, 15,000 royal tern nests and about 400 black skimmer nests.
Having a thriving rookery within paddling distance of Shem Creek isn’t just good for the birds.
“This is part of Lowcountry culture,” wrote Chris Crolley of Coastal Expeditions in a recent column for The Post and Courier. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Crolley has introduced thousands of people, including school groups, to the up-close wonder of the place.
“Let us set the example for our children and grandchildren that, when given the opportunity to protect precious habitat and otherwise defenseless creatures, we said ‘yes,’” Mr. Crolley wrote.
Indeed. Recognizing the importance of Crab Bank now augurs well for its future. Fifty years from now, it may need renourishing again. In the meantime, helping save Crab Bank will be something Charlestonians will be able to enjoy for decades, point to and say, “I did my part.”
Since the 1950s, seabird populations have declined by nearly 70 percent worldwide, and most South Carolina seabird populations are in decline, largely due to loss of habitat, according to the Department of Natural Resources, which named Crab Bank a protected seabird sanctuary in 2006. Any funds raised beyond the goal will go into a permanent fund to maintain South Carolina’s other seabird sanctuaries.
Nearly $300,000 has been raised so far by Coastal Bird Conservation Partners, a coalition of wildlife and conservancy groups heading up the fundraising campaign. Donations can be made via www.sccoastalbirds.org. The Post and Courier is also accepting donations via its Media in Education. For more information, go to postandcourier.com/crabbank.