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May 22, 2009

Oyster season closed, clam season closes May 31

South Carolina’s oyster season closed on Friday, May 15 according to S.C. Department of Natural Resources officials. Clam season will be extended another two weeks and close on Sunday, May 31.  
Clam season will close at one-half hour after official sunset. Find out more about shellfish harvesting regulations. Coastal waters will remain closed to recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting for clams and oysters until the fall when water temperatures and weather conditions warrant the shellfish suitable for harvesting.

According to Mel Bell, S.C. Department of Natural Resources's (DNR) Office of Fisheries Management Director, "Preliminary indications from our commercial harvesters point to a very successful season, with the quality of our oysters being outstanding, overall." DNR maintains 59 State Shellfish Grounds for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams and oysters. 20 Public Shellfish Grounds are managed exclusively for recreational gathering.

Terry Annibale, a commercial harvester in Charleston and Beaufort County waters, said that the economic downturn did not have much impact on oyster sales for him this year. Annibale, working along with his son, on average harvested approximately 110 bushels per week since the beginning of the harvesting season. "The oyster resource looked to be in great shape in most areas, particularly in the Kiawah River and Broad River areas."

Perry Hall also commercially harvests oysters in Beaufort County waters. He relayed his thoughts on harvesting this year, "We had good quality of oysters throughout the season." Hall harvests an average of about 3,500 bushels of oysters during the season and sells to a local seafood market in Murrells Inlet as well as fulfills individual customer requests.

DNR’s Shellfish Recycling and Replanting Program continues efforts to encourage the public to recycle their oyster shells. Currently, 22 oyster shell recycling drop-off locations are located throughout coastal counties, and collection sites can be found online. DNR refurbishes and sustains harvestable shellfish grounds with recycled oyster shells during the summer. Replanting shells is part of the cycle for maintaining the resource by providing a substrate for larval oysters to attach. When the quantity needed to refurbish these areas falls short of those that are recycled in statewide collection bins, DNR must purchase shells from other vendors.  Funding for DNR’s shellfish restoration and enhancement efforts is provided by a portion of Saltwater Recreational Fishing License funds.

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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