The S.C. Department of Natural Resources opened South Carolina's waters to commercial shrimp trawling at 8 am on Thursday. The commercial shrimp trawling season in state waters has been closed since January 23rd.
According to the DNR's web site, SCDNR 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.
It doesn't take a whole lot of thought to see that this year holds little promise to be profitable for local shrimp boats. With diesel near $4.50 a gallon and shrimp around $3.00 per pound at the dock there's just not enough margin to break even.
According to the DNR, 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.
Yet prices paid at the dock continue to decline in part to the vast amount of frozen shrimp brought into the United States by Asian shrimp growers.
The numbers of licensed shrimp trawlers to-date this season is 369 vs 555 in 200 and more than twice that number back in the 1980's.
More about the decline in shrimp boats in South Carolina's waters.
Radio reports Thursday and Friday indicated hit and miss success offshore for the shrimpers, but sport fishing boat are hitting the Dolphin pretty good.
More as the season progresses.