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September 15, 2003 DNR News (843) 953-9310

OYSTER, CLAM SEASONS SET TO OPEN ON SEPT. 16

The 2003-2004 season for harvesting oysters and clams will open Tuesday, Sept. 16 at one-half hour before official sunrise, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

The oyster and clam seasons will remain open through May 15, 2004, unless conditions warrant extending or shortening the seasons. The season dates apply to both recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) keeps records of the number of oysters and clams that are commercially harvested each year. "Last year's commercial oyster harvest was slightly higher than the previous season's, with a total of 85,602 bushels reported for the 2002-2003 season," said David Whitaker, DNR's director of the Office of Fisheries Management in the Marine Resources Division. "The number for the commercial wild-stock clam production was 8,465,250 clams, which is about a 1.5 percent increase over the previous season."

Recreational shellfish harvesters should be aware that Shellfish Ground S354 is closed to harvesting. This location is near Murrells Inlet in portions of Oaks Creek. "We are giving this location an opportunity to recover from heavy recreational harvesting," said Bill Anderson, DNR biologist who supervises the shellfish management section. "This month, DNR biologists will be planting this location with recycled oyster shells in order to restore these oyster beds." Funding from the Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Program supports this restoration effort.

Major Alvin Taylor, who oversees the DNR's Law Enforcement Marine Patrol, reminds the public of the new shellfish laws that affect recreational harvesting. "No matter how many people are in a boat," Taylor said, "recreational shellfish harvesters cannot have more than three personal limits of either clams or oysters per day. In addition, recreational harvesters cannot take shellfish more than two days in any seven-day period."

The DNR maintains State Shellfish Grounds for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams and oysters. This year, 45 State Shellfish Grounds and 20 Public Shellfish Grounds are available for recreational harvesting.

Public Shellfish Grounds are maintained exclusively for recreational gathering and are posted with boundary signs. State Shellfish Grounds may be harvested commercially if proper licenses and permits are in possession of the harvester.

South Carolina residents commercially harvesting on State Shellfish Grounds require a commercial saltwater license ($25), a commercial shellfish harvester license ($75) and permits obtained at no charge from the DNR's Marine Resources Division's permit coordinator. Higher license fees are required for non-resident commercial harvesters.

To harvest shellfish recreationally, an annual Saltwater Recreational Fisheries License is required by residents ($10) and non-residents ($35). Areas designated as Shellfish Culture Permits cannot be recreationally harvested unless harvesters have in their possession written permission from the permit holder.

Recreational harvesters are reminded that the recreational limit is two U.S. bushels of oysters and one-half bushel of clams in any one day. No person may gather more than one personal limit of shellfish on more than two calendar days per any seven-day period. There is a maximum possession limit of three personal limits per boat or vehicle, or boat and vehicle combination.

Clams must be at least 1 inch in thickness to be legally harvested. It is illegal to harvest any shellfish between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.

Recreational harvesters should obtain updated Public Shellfish Ground maps at the beginning of each season as boundaries may be modified from time to time. Commercial harvesters are furnished updated State Shellfish Ground maps when permits are issued.

The DNR encourages the public to recycle their oyster shells! To learn about this program or to find the nearest recycling bin near you, visit the DNR's new saltwater fishing license Web site at http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov or call Andy Jennings with DNR in Charleston at (843) 953- 9396.

Recreational shellfish harvesting maps, along with current oyster and clam gathering regulations, can be downloaded from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Web site at www.dnr.state.sc.us/etc/fishing.html, by calling (843) 953-9854 in Charleston, or by writing Recreational Shellfish Harvesting, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422-2559.

The public is reminded of Coast Watch, which was developed to better help citizens report violations of saltwater recreational and commercial fishing laws, as well as marine environmental laws. The Coast Watch hotline number (1-800-922-5431) is toll-free and available 24 hours a day. The DNR's Law Enforcement Marine Patrol is responsible for enforcing coastal recreational and commercial boating/fishing regulations.

- Written by Jennie R. Davis -

 

 

 

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