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Feds reopen some South Carolina waters for shrimping

(FILE/WCIV)

Federal officials have reopened some coastal South Carolina waters to commercial shrimping after extreme winter cold led to major population reduction and an extended closure of the shrimping season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday that permitted shrimpers are now free to again trawl for shrimp in federally managed waters off the South Carolina coast.

The decision is not unexpected. Mel Bell, fisheries director for the S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources, said Monday that DNR had requested NOAA to reopen federal waters after observing encouraging population numbers and spawning activity.

State managed waters nearer to shore remain closed. DNR continues monitoring shrimp populations there, and likely will reopen the fishery in the near future, says Bell.

South Carolina closed its state waters to all shrimping January 10 when water temperatures dropped below 50 degrees for an extended time during a period of exceptional cold.

The purpose of the closure was primarily to protect the coveted white "roe" shrimp population for spring and summer spawning, NOAA and DNR say.

Bells says despite good improvements in the overall population and spawning activity, the Lowcountry shouldn't expect bountiful hauls of roe shrimp this summer because of January's cold impacts.

S.C. DNR says there are approximately 400 licensed commercial shrimpers in the state, about 50 of whom are permitted to fish in federal waters, which begin three miles off the coast.

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