No. 15–Questions and Answers

Because of increasing local readership, this column will, from time to time, contain information of particular interest to area residents in combination with a new Q & A feature that allows for the coverage of multiple topics in one column. Questions come from Estuarium visitors, stop me on the street conversations and via email.

Of interest locally is the formation of the Port Royal Sound Conservancy (PRSC).

The PRSC is a growing consortium of regional organizations, educational institutions and local, state and federal agencies organized to encourage research in and preservation of Port Royal sound and it’s environs. Because of Port Royal Sound’s unique nature as the only high salinity salt marsh estuarine system in the hemisphere, it merits much more attention than it currently receives. Educational forums for the public and programs which encourage citizen participation are now being developed.

Look for information that will be available through local media outlets by the end of March concerning the free installation of by-catch reduction devices on recreational crab traps to stem diamondback terrapin mortality.

Q. What are the clear jelly like globs that I get in my cast net?

A. They are ctenophore (tee-ne-for), aka comb jelly for their eight radial bands of cilia. They are not true jellyfish and are harmless. It is a most beautifully elegant creature in a tank. DNR pilots are able to spot illegal shrimp trawling at night because ctenophores fluoresce when disturbed as in a boat’s wake.

Q. What are the little fiddler crabs picking out of the sand?

A. They are feeding on detritus (dee-try-tis) which by definition is decayed organic matter. Spartina grass is the largest component of local detritus which is at the center of the estuarine food web. Lots of tiny to small creatures including post larval shrimp and crabs feed almost exclusively on detritus.

Q. Can you eat mantis shrimp?

A. The general rule is that if it moves you can eat it, it’s just that some things are better to eat than others. Mantis shrimp tails are rather shallow and, I’m told, harder to peel than rock shrimp. Not much reward for the effort.

Q. Why is the water clearer in the winter than in the summer?

A. The water in the river and creeks tends to run clearer in the winter because it’s relatively devoid of life. Cold water is not conducive to phyto (plant) plankton and virtually nothing is spawning in winter. As spring begins to bloom so will local waters, with life.

Q. Why can’t you eat oysters in months without “R”s. Will they make you sick?

A. They won’t make you sick, there’s just not much to them. The spring oyster spawn pretty much uses the creatures up leaving a watery tissue shell of their former selves. It is through the “R”less summer months of feeding on rich plankton and detritus soup that they rebuild themselves.

Feel free to send questions to: The Curator at, I will reply and may use your question in a future column.