In the last week, just off our coast, a rare right whale has been sighted near Folly Beach, S.C.
These 40 ton right whales historically winter in the warmer waters here, give birth and then head back north navigating treacherous shipping lanes. Folly Beach, which is just two hours south of Myrtle Beach, near Charleston, S.C. saw the first confirmed sighting of a right whale in South Carolina waters for over the past three years. On its projected path, this whale should have navigated past the beaches of Myrtle Beach over the last short week. It would have passed our beaches a few miles out of sight in deeper ocean waters.
Just three days before the sighting about five miles out from Folly Beach, the whale had been spotted off Jacksonville, Fla., headed north.
The first mother and calf pair of the season were reported off of Jekyll Island, Georgia by aerial survey flights in December. And because just one beautiful giant mammal wasn’t enough, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aerial survey crew reported another pair near St. Augustine, Florida as well.
Scientists estimate there are as few as just over 450 right whales remaining, making them among the rarest marine mammals in the world.
Concerns about the safety of the mammals exist on multiple environmental levels. In 2013, the Greenville, S.C newspapers reported that the beach water quality (in the greater Myrtle Beach areas) was among the poorest in the nation. The paper stated:
Myrtle Beach State Park and Campgrounds exceeded rates of the daily maximum standard for bacteria levels 20 percent of the time in 2012, according to the report Testing the Waters 2013, which studied water quality at vacation beaches along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico.
Surfside Beach exceeded levels 19 percent of the time, followed by Myrtle Beach at 17 percent and North Myrtle Beach at 11 percent.
Ingesting or contact with bacteria can lead to dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections or rashes, which can especially attack children or elderly with weaker immune systems. Children are also more at risk because they’re more likely to dunk their heads under water or swallow water, said Jon Devine, the NRDC senior water attorney.
“It’s obviously not great if any beach is violating public health standards at all, much less with a relative high percentage of the samples taken,” Devine said.
In 2015, the beach at Briarcliffe Acres, just north of Myrtle Beach, was closed because of high bacteria levels for just over a week during the peak summer season.
With the S.C. thousand year flood this past Fall, temporary signs at every storm water run off location at all area beaches have now been replaced with permanent signs.
The recent 1,000 year flood in South Carolina has only added to the current concerns about how high bacteria levels now are on Myrtle Beach area beaches. A pumping barge station has been installed just off shore on the south end of Myrtle Beach to pump water runoff out into the deeper ocean just miles off the beach.
This barge has been put in place to ensure that Myrtle Beach beaches maintain the minimum standards of beach water quality so that the beaches are not shut down by state and federal authorities.
MyrtleBeachSC.com is currently investigating this issue for our readers, however, few outside of environmental groups have been willing to go publicly on the record concerning this matter as billions in annual tourist dollars are at risk. Area university environmental officials appear concerned about losing corporate grants or being in the spotlight and out-front on an issue that the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce considers a controversial matter.
We, at MyrtleBeachSC.com, believe our environment is a critical issue for both the endangered right whale as well as tourists, locals and our families (those that we truly love and those that matter most to us).
MyrtleBeachSC.com has not given up on this story, however. We promise to do a soon follow up as we feel this story is vital to each of you.