The 2007-2008 season for harvesting oysters and clams will open Monday, Sept. 17.
Oyster and clam seasons will remain open through May 15, 2008, unless conditions warrant extending or shortening the seasons. Season dates apply to both recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting. Shellfish harvesters may begin gathering oysters and clams on designated areas one-half hour before official sunrise until one-half hour after official sundown. Harvesters should be aware the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) would close shellfish beds by specific coastal county if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration places the area under a hurricane warning.
According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), commercial landings last year totaled 83,800 U.S. bushels, slightly higher than the previous year. Commercial culture permit harvests were 64,229 bushels, about 27 per cent more than last year and the highest since the 2003-04 season.
The DNR maintains 59 State Shellfish Grounds for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams and 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 may have been closed by pollution by DHEC. Maps for these areas are downloadable off DNR’s Web site or may be obtained by writing Marine Resources Division, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422. Get maps of State Shellfish Grounds, open to both commercial and recreational harvesting. All maps are listed by county, and additional information may be obtained by calling (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 18 oyster shell recycling drop-off locations are located in coastal counties. You can also call (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 84,000 bushels that were landed during last year’s shellfish season, a record 13,581 bushels of the total were recycled by the public at DNR collection sites. This was a significant increase in public participation over last year’s 7,600 bushels that were recycled. 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.