Despite record amounts of rainfall in October 2015, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists are predicting a productive year for shrimping, with models predicting the largest roe white shrimp crop since 1979.
The commercial shrimp trawling season opened in all South Carolina state waters where trawling is legal at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 16.
Shrimp season normally opens in mid to late May, after the peak spawning period of white shrimp has occurred. Eight smaller provisional areas opened in early April.
Several key factors have contributed to 2016’s record shrimp stocks, according to DNR biologists. Like the rest of the continental United States, South Carolina experienced an unseasonably warm winter, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed as the country’s warmest on record.
The higher water temperatures afforded shrimp an extended growing season, but they may also have delayed the dieback of black gill syndrome, a condition that weakens shrimp and whose spread is normally curbed in winter.
In addition to the warm winter, the high volumes of freshwater and nutrients carried downstream by the fall flood may have had some unexpected impacts on South Carolina’s shrimp.
South Carolina’s shrimp may have faced less predation in the months following the flood, due to lower salinity levels along the coast, according to DNR.
South Carolina’s commercial shrimp fishery typically includes three distinct periods of activity:
The roe white shrimp season generates the most value for fishing effort, with relatively high early season prices for large roe shrimp.
The second period, the brown shrimp season, typically peaks during the summer months.
The third period of shrimp season consists of the offspring of the spring white shrimp crop, which peaks in the fall and ends in winter.
DNR monitors South Carolina’s shrimp fisheries in a number of ways, relying on data collected by DNR biologists during sampling trips aboard both commercial and agency vessels.
Before the season can open to commercial trawling, biologists look for evidence that a majority of female white shrimp have spawned.
South Carolina’s total shrimp harvest in 2015 reached over two million pounds (measured heads-off), with a dockside value of more than $8.5 million.
source: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources