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August 29, 2008

Shellfish season will open Sept. 16

The 2008-2009 season for harvesting oysters and clams will open Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Oyster and clam seasons will remain open through May 15, 2009, unless conditions warrant extending or shortening the seasons. Season dates apply to both recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting. Shellfish harvesters may begin gathering oysters and clams on designated areas one-half hour before official sunrise until one-half hour after official sundown. Harvesters should be aware the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) would close shellfish beds by specific coastal county if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration places the area under a hurricane warning.

The DNR maintains 59 State Shellfish Grounds for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams and oysters. Twenty Public Shellfish Grounds are managed exclusively for recreational gathering and are posted with boundary signs. The recreational limit is two U.S. bushels of oysters and one-half bushel of clams in any one day. No person may gather more than one personal limit of shellfish on more than two calendar days per any seven-day period. There is a maximum possession limit of three personal limits per boat or vehicle or boat and vehicle combination. Clams must be at least 1 inch in thickness.

Recreational harvesters should obtain updated Public Shellfish Ground maps at the beginning of each season as boundaries may be modified from time to time or areas previously open to harvest may have been closed by pollution by DHEC. Maps for these areas may be obtained by writing Marine Resources Division, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422. Also get maps of State Shellfish Grounds open to both commercial and recreational harvesting. All maps are listed by county, and additional information may be obtained by calling (843) 953-9300. 

South Carolina residents commercially harvesting on State Shellfish Grounds are required to purchase a saltwater commercial license, a State Shellfish Ground License and acquire permits from the DNR. Increased license fees are required for non-resident harvesters. A Saltwater Recreational Fishing License is required for residents and non-residents for all recreational shellfish harvesting. Areas designated as Shellfish Culture permits cannot be recreationally harvested unless the harvester has written permission from the permit holder in their possession.

The public is reminded that 18 oyster shell recycling drop-off locations are located in coastal counties, and collection sites can be found by calling (843) 953-9300 to find the nearest location. Every shell that is recycled locally is cycled back into the estuarine environment and helps to restore shellfish grounds in coastal South Carolina. Shells not obtained locally are purchased from out of state vendors to ensure that adequate amounts are collected for refurbishing public reef sites prior to shellfish harvesting season.

DNR uses Saltwater Fishing Stamp funds to construct and enhance renewable oyster resources that provide ecosystem services as well as finfish habitat in the coastal counties.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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