South Carolina shrimp harvest opens June 1
CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C.
May 31, 2023
South Carolina’s favorite seafood will soon be more widely available at docks and markets along the coast.
Commercial shrimp trawling will open in all legal South Carolina waters at 8 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, 2023.
In an average year, shrimp season opens in full by mid- to late-May, typically after the opening of eight smaller provisional areas in the state’s outer waters. This year those provisional areas opened on April 27, allowing shrimpers to begin harvesting some larger white shrimp from farther offshore while still protecting most of the spawning population closer to shore.
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 have already spawned at least once.
"We monitored the progress of white shrimp spawning by conducting regular sampling all along the South Carolina coast throughout the month of May," said biologist Jeff Brunson, who oversees crustacean management for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Opening the season too soon – and allowing trawlers to catch females that have not had an opportunity to spawn – could reduce the size of the fall white shrimp crop, which are the offspring of the spring white shrimp.
"According to our assessments, adequate spawning has occurred to ensure that harvest is sustainable and that offspring from the spring spawning stock will be abundant enough to support the important fall shrimp crop," said Brunson.
South Carolina's commercial shrimp calendar has historically had three peak periods. 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 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.
Because white shrimp are a short-lived species that are vulnerable to cold water temperatures and unusually wet or dry summers, their numbers can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. However, they’re also prolific spawners – which means that the populations can quickly rebound even after a poor year or season.
"Although we did have some very low temperatures in late December of 2022, that weather event was short-lived. We have not seen any evidence that this event had a meaningful effect on the white shrimp spawning stock this spring," Brunson said.
For additional information, contact:
Erin Weeks, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org, (843) 953-9845