Photo by Toan Chu on Unsplash

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will open the 2020-2021 season for the commercial and recreational harvest of oysters and clams 30 minutes before sunrise on Thursday. The season will run until May 15, 2021, according to a DNR press release. 

Approximately 50 percent of South Carolina’s 90 or so culture permits — harvesting areas designated by perimeter boundaries — are divided among individuals and corporations while the other half are owned by the state. 

Lowcountry Oyster Co. founder Trey McMillan said the biggest difference in this year’s shellfish season will be the fact that “there are hardly any state grounds open this year” due to overharvesting by commercial license holders in the past few years. 

Professional fisherman-turned-oyster-farmer, McMillan is the vice president of the South Carolina Shellfish Growers Association and the state’s representative for the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, groups that advocate for sustainable oyster farming. 

“All the guys that raise oysters like I do have been saying for years now that they have to find a way to regulate this stuff,” McMillan said. 

“There are no changes in regulations this year, but we always encourage folks to cull in place (breaking off smaller oysters and bits of shell from a cluster right there as you harvest, keeping only those oysters three inches or larger) to encourage new growth on the oyster reef,” a DNR spokesperson said via email. 

The season technically goes until May, but McMillan said it effectively ends in January for commercial harvesters. That’s because the harvesting season is broken into trimesters — there will be three state grounds open during the first trimester, seven open during the second and just one open during the last 10-week period. 

According to the SCDNR press release, 52 state-managed shellfish grounds are open for commercial harvesting, with an additional 33 managed exclusively for recreational harvesting. In total, there will be 1,210 acres of state shellfish grounds open to harvest this season.

For more information, visit dnr.sc.gov.