Shrimpers fear this year’s Blessing of the Fleet could be their last

Published: Apr. 28, 2019 at 11:39 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - The 32nd Annual Blessing of the Fleet event in Mount Pleasant has some shrimpers saying they hope this year isn’t their last time participating.

They say if the Army Corps of Engineers dumps dredge material on Crab Bank Island, the mouth to Shem Creek will close and they won’t be able to get to their docks.

There are over a dozen Lowcountry shrimping boats that call Shem Creek home.

On Sunday, most of them participated in the traditional Blessing of the Fleet by driving by the Waterfront Park Pier while a minister prays over their season. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie says this is part of what makes the town such a great place.

“There are not many towns with their own shrimping fleet. It’s a blessing to us and them,” Haynie says.

Some shrimpers say this could be their last year at their docks if the Army Corps of Engineers decides to move forward with their plan of filling in sections of Crab Bank Island. Their original plan could close the mouth to Shem Creek in as little as two years.

The town of Mount Pleasant hired their own specialist to find the best place to put that dredging material but the study hasn’t been completed yet. They say once it is, they will continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to form a plan.

Third-generation shrimper Wayne Magwood says he’s been shrimping since he was young but is worried the restoration could slow his business down. He says he’s already facing problems getting in and out of the inlet, so this would make it worse.

“I’ve run aground a couple times. It’s filling in badly, the sand is just washing into Shem Creek,” Magwood says.

He says if the area gets filled in and then continues to quickly silt, the boats will only be able navigate the area during high tide. If that happens, he says shrimpers would spend more time waiting to come back into the docks and less time doing their work.

Haynie says that’s not an option.

“It’s part of who we are and our history,” Haynie says. “If we ever lost our shrimping fleet it would look like every other marina.”

Magwood says he hopes a compromise can be made for the Crab Bank Project to be done right so that all the shrimpers can be parading back through the harbor to be blessed again next year.

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