Oyster season opens Oct. 1st

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By HEATHER RUPPE

Colleton shellfish lovers and harvesters can get their rubber boots and gloves ready; the 2021-2022 recreational shellfish harvest season in South Carolina opens in the state’s coastal waters on Oct. 1st.

This year’s oyster and clam gathering season officially opens 30 minutes prior to sunrise on Friday, Oct. 1st and will stay open until May 15th of 2022, unless the season is closed because of environmental reasons.

“In the event of another hurricane, major rain event, or pollution spill, shellfish beds may be temporarily closed by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC),” according to information released by S.C. DNR and Spokesman Erin Weeks.

According to the DNR, harvesters should consistently and constantly check with DHEC prior to any harvesting, to see if there have been closures. This information is available at 1-800-285-1618 and can be viewed on DHEC’s Web site, which now features an interactive map. Closures can happen because of weather, excessive rains or hazardous spills.

There are 20 public shellfish grounds and 13 state-controlled shellfish grounds in South Carolina. There are an additional 52 shellfish beds that are managed by state officials for recreational and commercial harvests.

Maps of beds are available in a variety of ways

Recreational harvesters should obtain updated Public or State Shellfish Ground maps at the beginning of each season, as areas open to harvest change from year to year. Maps of designated harvest areas may be downloaded from the SCDNR Web site at www.sc.dnr.gov.

Printed maps may also be obtained by calling (843) 953-9854 or writing the Shellfish Management Section, Attn: Ben Dyar, SCDNR, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422-2559.

Recreational harvesters must have a Saltwater Recreational Fishing License, which are available from S.C. DNR or at many fishing supply stores in the Lowcountry.

Shellfish limits

The recreational limit is two U.S. bushels of oysters and one-half bushel of clams in any one day, limited to two calendar days per seven-day period. One U.S. bushel is equal to 8 gallons.

There is a maximum possession of three personal limits per boat or vehicle. Clams must be at least 1 inch thick.

Commercial harvest of shellfish requires a commercial saltwater license, mandatory harvester training, and other licenses and permits depending on where the harvest will occur.

Weeks says that all shellfish harvesters are being asked to “cull in place,” a technique where you break off dead and smaller oysters and leave them lying along the shore. This also includes only taking clusters or the singles from larger oysters, “ … where they will continue to grow and provide habitat for future generations of oysters,” she said, in a press release.

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