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#06-253 September 18, 2006

Season for oysters, clams set to open Sept. 16 in S.C.

The 2006-2007 season for harvesting oysters and clams will open Saturday, Sept. 16.
           
Oyster and clam seasons will remain open through May 15, 2007, unless conditions warrant extending or shortening the seasons. Season dates apply to both recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting. Shellfish harvesters may begin harvesting one-half hour before official until one-half hour after official sundown.
           
According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), commercial landings last year totaled 31,600 bushels of oysters from state shellfish grounds, which is the highest volume harvested from public grounds over the last 10 years. Total shellfish landings last year averaged 82,000 bushels, which is the same quantity tallied the previous year.
           
The DNR maintains 58 State Shellfish Grounds for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams andOysters oysters. Twenty Public Shellfish Grounds are managed exclusively for recreational gathering and are posted with boundary signs. The recreational limit is two U.S. bushels of oysters and one-half bushel of clams in any one day. No person may gather more than one personal limit of shellfish on more than two calendar days per any seven-day period. There is a maximum possession limit of three personal limits per boat or vehicle or boat and vehicle combination. Clams must be at least 1 inch in thickness.
           
Recreational harvesters should obtain updated Public Shellfish Ground maps at the beginning of each season as boundaries may be modified from time to time or areas previously open to harvest areas may have been closed by pollution by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Maps for these areas are downloadable from the DNR’s Web site at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/shellfish/pubshell.html, or may be obtained by writing Marine Resources Division, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422. Maps of State Shellfish Grounds, open to both commercial and recreational harvesting, may be found on the Web at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/shellfish/stateshell.html. All maps are listed by county. For additional information, call (843) 953-9300.
           
South Carolina residents commercially harvesting on State Shellfish Grounds are required to purchase a saltwater commercial license, a State Shellfish Ground License and acquire permits from the DNR. Increased license fees are required for non-resident harvesters. A Saltwater Recreational Fishing License is required for residents and non-residents for all recreational shellfish harvesting. Areas designated as Shellfish Culture permits cannot be recreationally harvested unless the harvester has written permission from the permit holder in their possession.

The public is reminded that shell recycling drop-off locations are located in coastal counties, and collection sites can be found online at http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html, or by calling (843) 953-9300 to find the nearest location. Every shell that is recycled locally is cycled back into the estuarine environment and helps to restore shellfish grounds in coastal South Carolina. Of the 82,000 bushels that were landed during last year’s shellfish season, 7,600 bushels, or less than 10 percent of the total taken, were recycled by the public at DNR collection sites. Shells not obtained locally are purchased from out of state vendors to ensure that adequate amounts are collected for refurbishing public reef sites prior to shellfish harvesting season.
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