A 2005 update on the status of the valuable shrimp fishery resource in South Carolina is now available.
The State of the Resource report on shrimp is accessible on the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Web site: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/publications.html. The state resource reports inform the public on the condition of several important coastal species, determined through the most current biological research and analysis.
The condition of the shrimp stock, according to DNR biologist Larry DeLancey, is pretty good. “We have seen very good numbers of small shrimp in creeks this summer, and to date, the South Carolina coast has not been strongly impacted by tropical storms, which tend to move shrimp out prematurely,” DeLancey said. “Overall, somewhat dry conditions in some coastal areas may have slightly delayed normal migrations of the shrimp toward the sea.”
Penaeid shrimp, better known as brown and white shrimp, dominate the catches of commercial and recreational harvesters in South Carolina waters. In 2005, the commercial industry landed about 2.2 million pounds of shrimp (measured heads-off). Commercial landings were the lowest on record since the mid 1980s, when a decline in landings totals was associated with a harsh winter. Commercial landings for white shrimp, which make up the majority of penaeid shrimp caught, were the lowest they have been over the past 25 years.
Due to a mandatory trip-ticket system, established in 2003, information collected from the commercial fishing industry illustrates that while minimal differences were noted between total shrimp landings, a 50 percent decrease in trawling effort was recorded over this two-year period. DeLancey said: “Because commercial trawling effort is now much less than three years ago, due to continuing low prices for shrimp and high fuel prices, previous predictive models may no longer hold.”
In addition, DeLancey noted that statewide recreational efforts have also declined. Available methods for recreational harvesters include the use of cast nets, lift nets and seines. Casting for shrimp over bait has become the most significant method of recreational harvesting in South Carolina. However, the sale of shrimp-baiting permits over the last several years has been declining, and the 9,004 permits that were issued during last year’s season were the lowest on record since the permitting system was initiated in 1988. The estimated take of this fishery in 2005 was 704,000 pounds (heads-off), accounting for 30 percent of the total fall white shrimp landings. DNR predicts that the declining trend in the estimated baiting catch stems from higher fuel costs and the availability of relatively low-priced shrimp from commercial vendors.