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South Carolina shrimping season opens

(Source: SC Department of Natural Resources)
Commercial shrimp trawling officially opens in all legal South Carolina waters when the General Trawl Zone opens at 8 a.m. Thursday.((Source: SC Department of Natural Resources))
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 4:24 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Commercial shrimp trawling officially opened in all legal South Carolina waters at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Shrimping season in South Carolina typically starts in spring with the opening of a small subset of waters, called provisional areas, that allow shrimpers to take advantage of the harvest offshore while still protecting the majority of shrimp that have yet to spawn, Department of Natural Resources officials say.

South Carolina’s provisional areas opened on April 26 this year. The remainder of the harvest area, called the General Trawl Zone, is much larger and what opens in full Thursday morning.

“After a slightly cooler start to spring, things now look pretty normal for this time of year,” SCDNR Office of Fisheries Management Director Mel Bell said. “We’ve seen adequate evidence of coast-wide maturation and spawning of white shrimp. This is the same date we opened the season in full last year.”

SCDNR officials set the opening date for shrimp season each year based on the conditions of the shrimp themselves. Aboard both commercial and agency vessels, biologists sample and study white shrimp frequently in late spring. One of the things they’re looking for is evidence that a majority of female white shrimp will have already spawned at least once before the season starts.

“Given the relatively mild nature of this past winter and the promising results of several months of monitoring efforts conducted by our biologists, the abundance of overwintering white shrimp in our estuarine waters should set us up for good landings this season,” Bell said.

SCDNR officials set the opening date for shrimp season each year based on the conditions of the...
SCDNR officials set the opening date for shrimp season each year based on the conditions of the shrimp themselves, which agency biologists examine.((Source: SC Department of Natural Resources))

South Carolina’s commercial shrimp calendar has historically had three peak periods, DNR officials say.

In the spring, shrimpers typically capitalize on the influx of roe white shrimp, large, early-season shrimp that generally fetch higher prices and generate the most value for fishing effort. The summer months are typically defined by a peak in brown shrimp, which are similar to white shrimp in size and taste. In the fall and into winter, shrimpers bring in a second crop of white shrimp; the offspring of the spring roe shrimp.

SCDNR says white shrimp are a short-lived species that are vulnerable to cold water temperatures and unusually wet or dry summers. That means their numbers can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. But because they are also prolific spawners, populations can quickly rebound even after a poor year or season.

Georgia officials have not yet set an opening date for trawling season in their state waters.

Also in the news ...

  • Multiple crews including the Coast Guard responded after a shrimp boat capsized near Morris Island Thursday morning. The 35-foot vessel capsized with three people on board, according U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Michael Marcenelle. The Charleston Police Metro Marine Unit confirmed the three crew members have been rescued. No injuries have been reported. Two good Samaritans also responded. Coast Guard agents are working to determine what caused the boat to capsize. Marcenelle said they received the first call from another shrimp boat crew at 10:57 a.m. The Coast Guard dispatched a 29-foot response boat small to assist with the rescue, he said.

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