Sales good for area shrimpers

Vince Vierra weighs his offshore catch of shrimp at Magwood Seafood on Shem Creek on Friday. The inshore shrimping season opens today.

Although fishermen on the Gulf Coast have seen their livelihoods threatened by millions of gallons of oil, their counterparts in South Carolina have a different story to tell.

Shrimp season began in a limited fashion May 25, with fishermen allowed to shrimp in certain areas three miles from shore.

The season is set to start in earnest today, with state waters being opened to shrimpers.

The season typically begins in the late spring and continues until the winter.

The Department of Natural Resources opened this year's season two weeks late because cold weather earlier this year diminished part of the white shrimp population. White shrimp, the type of shrimp that opens the season, began increasing in number as the temperatures rose.

"It's better than we thought it would be a few months ago," said Larry DeLancey, a crustacean monitoring supervisor with DNR.

Increasing costs and regulations have forced some out of the shrimping business. Sales have been good for those that stuck around.

"Sales are probably the best they've ever been," said Jay Sewell, dockmaster at Magwood Seafood in Mount Pleasant.

He added that an increased interest in locally caught seafood has brought in more customers.

"Everyone wants it and not too many people can catch it," he said.

Maria Lodge, owner of the Carolina Bay Seafood Restaurant in North Charleston, has also noticed an uptick in demand.

It has been difficult for her to even get seafood to sell. She said people are coming all the way to the Lowcountry from the Gulf Coast to buy shrimp.

Some disagree with the perception that all the shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico have been tainted by the oil spill.

Frank Boun, executive director of the South Carolina Seafood Alliance, said the anti-Gulf shrimp mood is uncalled for.

"There is clean seafood coming out of the Gulf," he said.

Reach Melvin Backman at 937-5550 or mbackman@postandcourier.com.