Shrimpers head out with big expectations on first day of shrimp season

VIDEO: Shrimpers head out with big expectations on first day of shrimp season

MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Commercial shrimpers head out onto the open water with high expectations Monday morning.

May 16 marks the official opening of shrimp trawling season in all state waters where trawling is legal. Eight smaller provisional areas opened in early April.

South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium states the shrimp fishery is the most commercially important fishery in South Carolina, followed by fisheries for blue crab and oysters.

The Department of Natural Resources predicts a plentiful harvest this year despite October's floods.

Initially marine researchers were worried about the harvest after October's significant rainfall and floods that followed.

"We were afraid that it had washed everything out, but oddly enough winter was actually really good," said Mel Bell, director of the DNR Office of Fisheries Management.

Bell added the floods may have played a positive role in this season's big predictions.

"[They] basically washed a lot of additional nutrients into the water, or into the coastal system," Bell said. "That could be the reason we're seeing so many shrimp this year, because of a nutrient rich environment."

"It's just [about] being in the right place at the right time," said Cynthia Tarvin, co-owner of Tarvin Seafood in Shem Creek.

Tarvin said she is well aware this season is supposed to be good.

The company's boats were out on the water all day trying to bring in a good catch.

"In a perfect world we would catch enough that the prices stay at a level where the boats want to go out again, and that we have enough for everybody," Tarvin said.

Three peak periods define the state's commercial shrimp fishery calendar. The roe white shrimp season, starting in May, generates the most value for the fishing effort. The second period, the brown shrimp season, typically peaks during the summer months. The third period of shrimp season consists of the offspring of the spring white shrimp crop, which peaks in the fall and ends in the winter.

Bell said while large harvests are a good thing, they do come with some consequences.

"If you have a lot of shrimp then the price can be depressed a bit," he added.

"It makes it harder from a price standpoint, and then shrimp are gone and nobody has any," Tarvin said. "Ideally, it would all be well balanced."

Bell and others at DNR urge people to buy the shrimp locally.

"The guys really work hard, and it's a good quality product," Bell said.

"We're happy that the local community is supporting us," Tarvin said. "The local restaurants are becoming more and more interested in buying local and selling local."

In 2015 the total shrimp harvest reached over two-million pounds (measured heads-off) with a dockside value of more than $8.5 million.

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