SC waters open to commercial shrimpers

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The S.C. Department of Natural Resources will open the smaller offshore Provisional Trawling Areas in state waters to commercial shrimp trawling at 8 a.m. on April 16th.

The Provisional Trawling Areas allow the state's commercial trawler fleet to begin limited harvesting of some this year's white shrimp that had already moved into these offshore waters. The much larger General Trawl Zone typically opens several weeks after the initial opening.

The decision to open the shrimp trawl season comes after biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sample state waters for white shrimp and closely monitor coastal water temperatures which influence the timing of shrimp spawning. Fisheries managers also consult with DNR Law Enforcement as well as representatives of the commercial shrimp fishery.

The shrimp trawl fishery is the state's single most economically significant commercial fishery, with reported landings exceeding $7 million (at the dock) in the 2011/2012 season.

According to Mel Bell, DNR's Director of Office of Fisheries Management, "Coastal water temperatures this year have been much warmer than average which resulted in good survival of over wintering white shrimp and an accelerated timetable for their likely spawning. The l opening of our coastal state waters to shrimp trawling is based chiefly upon our documentation of a sufficient level of spawning of white shrimp."

Three seasons define the state's commercial shrimp fishery calendar. The first, white roe shrimp season, generates the most value for fishing effort with early season prices being relatively high.

The brown shrimp season typically occurs during the summer months, and the larger fall white shrimp season, composed of offspring from the spring roe crop, carries out the remainder of the three seasons in the late summer and ends in winter.