Native Americans are prominent in a new book titled “Coastal South Carolina Fish and Game: History, Culture and Conservation.” Here, author James O. Luken presents the full history of hunting, fishing, land and water management, and conservation that shaped and preserved the fish and wildlife of coastal South Carolina. From Native Americans to the early colonists to plantation owners and enslaved residents to market hunters and commercial fishermen, all viewed fish and wildlife as limitless. Through time, however, overharvesting led to population declines and the public demanded conservation. The process yielding fish and game laws, wardens, and wildlife refuges was complex and often involved conflict, but synergy and cooperation prevailed, producing one of the most extensive conservation systems on the East Coast.
An excerpt from the Forward of the book follows:
A straight line tracing the South Carolina coast measures only 187 miles. But these miles are not like the miles farther inland where travel is easy and scenery lackluster. These coastal miles, extending from the North Carolina border and Little River in the north to the Georgia border and Ace Basin in the south, track across rivers, creeks, estuaries, sounds, bays, beaches, marshes, swamps, forests, farmland as well as numerous cities accommodating people with a desire to live at the coast. This coast, or more specifically this Coastal Zone, supports fish, wildlife and ecological communities many of which are permanently protected in refuges, preserves, parks or via private conservation easements.
While some argue that natural or maybe even supernatural forces are responsible for the great natural capital of the South Carolina coast, in truth, it was, and is, the people living here that forged the landscape. Early on, people treated the ecosystem that would become South Carolina as a seemingly unlimited source of fish, wildlife and land. But harvest for local consumption shifted to harvest for trade and export. Natural communities were destroyed to accommodate agriculture and settlements. Over-exploitation and extinction were common drivers of new exploitation and new trade. Eventually people, or more importantly government working for people, had a strong influence in terms of environmental regulations, fish and game laws, land management and development of wildlife refuges. Throughout prehistory and history, fishing, hunting and harvest in coastal South Carolina remained a central aspect of the various cultures living on the land and tideland.