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May 20, 2008

State waters open to shrimpers May 22

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources opens state waters to commercial shrimp trawling Thursday, May 22nd at 8 a.m.

The decision to open the season comes after biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sampled state waters and determine that an adequate number of roe shrimp have spawned. The commercial shrimp trawling season in state waters has been closed since January 23rd.

According to Mel Bell, DNR’s Marine Resources Office of Fisheries Management Director, "Based upon our ongoing monitoring of shrimp numbers, sizes, spawning activity and location within state waters, we have determined it is a suitable time for opening this year’s trawling season."

DNR conducts shrimp resource assessments in a number of ways, including dependent and independent monitoring. This allows for fisheries biologists and managers to analyze the resource from trawls conducted by DNR biologists as well as commercial trawlers. DNR crustacean biologist Mark Maddox conducts the dependent monitoring during the spring, which consists of a cooperative effort with commercial trawlers that allows for information to be obtained during some preliminary trawling along the coast through Maddox’s supervision and assistance.  Maddox says that, "The roe shrimp numbers look good during the trawls that we have conducted thus far. The resource is in good condition."

Three seasons define the commercial shrimp calendar. The first, white roe shrimp season, opens this Thursday at 8 a.m. The brown shrimp season typically occurs during the summer months, and the larger fall white shrimp season, composed of offspring from the spring roe crop, carries out the remainder of the three seasons in the fall. 

The DNR estimates that high fuel prices may result in a decrease in fishing effort and contribute to lower landings totals this year.  Landings totals have been on the steady decline due to a decrease in fishing effort by licensed commercial trawlers. While the resource remains in good condition and the trawlers’ total amount of catch per trip has remained steady, the economics of the fishery continues to have an impact on the number of trips taken by licensed commercial trawlers, subsequently affecting the landings totals DNR configures at the end of the season.

Total landings for shrimp during the 2007 season, measured heads-off, was just over 1.5 million pounds. Total landings during the 2006 season was over 2.3 million pounds; during the 2005 season was around 2.5 million pounds; and during the 2004 season was around 3.6 million pounds. The numbers of licensed shrimp trawlers to-date this season is 369; during 2007 the total number of licensed shrimpers was 359; the 2006 season had 440 licensed shrimper trawlers; in 2005 there were 468 licensed trawlers; and 2004 had 555 licensed shrimp trawlers.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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