DHEC reopens Lowcountry shellfish beds

Heavy rainfall prompts Lowcountry shellfish bed closings

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A temporary ban on shellfish harvesting from the Stono River Inlet North to the Charleston Harbor has been lifted, according to the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC imposed a temporary ban on harvesting from the area on Sept. 30 after heavy rainfall over a short period of time.

"Water quality data indicate that all approved areas from the Stono River Inlet North to the Charleston Harbor are now suitable for harvesting," Mike Pearson, manager of DHEC's Shellfish Sanitation Section, said.

The ban was blow to local seafood dealers.

Joseph Pleasants, owner of Fishnet seafood on Johns Island, was left looking at an empty wall where his oyster supply should have been.  Pleasants joined a host of other local seafood retailers waiting for a DHEC-imposed closure to end.

"We measured greater than 4" of rainfall in a 24 hour period at our Folly Beach rain gauge," DHEC spokesperson Cassandra Harris said on Oct. 1, the day after the ban was enacted. "That much rainfall in a short amount of time washes pollutants into the many creeks and rivers that make up the shellfish growing areas."

J.B. Medlin, who harvests oysters throughout the Lowcountry, is used to netting up to 50 bushels a day.

"I got two bushels (today), and the beds, they were all dead," he said."I've got 150 bushels already sold, and I can't get them unless they open these beds up."

In North Charleston, James Richardson of Marvin's Seafood, faced a similar dilemma.  Richardson said the calls from customers wanting oysters have started to pour in.  He says turning them away hurts much more than oyster sales.

"They're not even going to come into the store to see what else we have," Richardson said."Less traffic, means less business."

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