The Charleston Bump: Policy Context and Public Involvement
John V. Miglarese and Robert H. Boyles, Jr.
Abstract.—Competition between commercial and recreational fishers for fishery resources is common throughout the United States. This competition for resources occurs throughout the south Atlantic region. However, competition around an area known as the Charleston Bump led to controversy and public calls for closure of that area to commercial fishing. In 1997, controversy erupted over the proposed lease of a fish processing facility at the newly completed Charleston Maritime Center. A group of commercial fishermen proposed to open the Maritime Center’s facilities to all types of commercial fishing craft, but with emphasis on longline vessels. The high level of public awareness and knowledge of South Carolina’s offshore fisheries helped to catapult the Charleston Bump to the forefront of state and federal marine fisheries policy, research, and management. Parties to this dispute looked to state fisheries managers for interpretation of technical information upon which to base their decisions. However, fisheries managers soon learned that the data on the significance of the Charleston Bump as a nursery area were inconsistent and spotty. This lack of reliable data left the managers in a policy dilemma: how to make technical recommendations on the management of the fisheries of the Charleston Bump given the lack of data. The fisheries managers responded by acknowledging the lack of data and suggesting that a comprehensive ecological analysis of the Charleston Bump be performed. In addition, the fisheries managers responded by interpreting the data based on the precautionary principle (i.e., do no harm to the resource) and advised the parties to the Maritime Center dispute against any move that might consolidate fishing effort on the Charleston Bump. The purpose of this paper is to: (1) document the approach taken by the State of South Carolina to analyze this public controversy and; (2) describe how public involvement in the development of a local public policy issue can create the need for further scientific inquiry and research. The authors present an overview of this controversy and highlight how public perceptions and demand for action resulted in a policy stance. The authors describe how the public’s direct involvement led not only to the colloquium but also to a renewed scientific interest in the Charleston Bump.