Tourists aren’t the only creatures flocking to the South Carolina coast this season.
The spring shrimp season is underway and biologists expect a strong showing of the world’s favorite shellfish. The Department of Natural Resources says an above-average shrimp season is coming to a plate near you. South Carolina’s shrimp season opened May 24 and DNR predicts a strong spring harvest.
DNR crustacean biologist Jeff Brunson expects shrimpers to net more than twice as much as the 10-year historical average and around what shrimpers collected last spring.
“Forecasting pretty similar to what was actually harvested last year, almost 620,000 pounds last [spring] and we are looking for a little more than that,” Brunson said. “On the whole, it is shaping up to be a pretty good season.”
Last year, DNR projected a record shrimp forecast for the spring harvest, but only about half of the forecast was actually taken. Brunson said normally the 30-year-old model to predict the shrimp harvest is very accurate.
Fisheries Management Director Mel Bell guessed Hurricane Matthew may have caused a dip in shrimp productivity last year. However, normal flooding and storms like those that closed shellfish fisheries near Charleston last week do not significantly impact the overall yearly averages.
“We thought that, after the record rainfalls that we had back in ’15, that it was going to be a horrible year the next year,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But, nope, it was actually a really good year.”
Bell said that small flooding can sometimes drive nutrients out to sea, which helps the shrimp reproductive cycle. Hot winters can also significantly increase the shrimp forecast and Bell said that this winter was no exception. He noted temperatures never dropped to a point that cooled off the coast and moved shrimp offshore.
DNR believes that high shrimping predictions are good for the fishing industry in the state — as long as people keep eating locally harvested shrimp.
“It is a much higher quality product, it’s harvested by South Carolinians that are out there working hard,” Bell said about South Carolina White Roe shrimp which is the species used to predict the seasonal harvest.
Shrimpers in South Carolina harvested $7.8 million worth of shrimp in 2016 and $8.5 million in 2015.