Celebrate National Shrimp Day with facts about SC shrimp

Every year on May 10, National Shrimp Day recognizes America’s favorite bite-sized seafood. If you’re a fan, today’s the day to make your favorite shrimp dish and learn more about how these little crustaceans are involved in South Carolina’s history and ecosystems.

What types of shrimp does South Carolina have?

The state of South Carolina is home to three different species of commercially edible penaeid shrimp, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources: brown shrimp, white shrimp, and pink shrimp. Brown and white shrimp are much more common in the area than pink shrimp. However, all three are edible and taste the same.

Featured in the Academy Award-winning movie Forrest Gump, which was filmed in South Carolina, shrimping, a staple in the Palmetto State, has been popular to local fishermen dating back to before the Civil War and is still just as vibrant today.

South Carolina Shrimping

Commercial fishing in South Carolina is dominated by shrimpers whose trawlers can reach up to 85 feet in length or more.

These boats can be multipurpose and can be used locally for both shrimping and crabbing as well as for line-fishing and trawling.

Shrimping can be a tedious and at times, dangerous business. Yet, it remains to be a fundamental part of South Carolina life.

The amount of time a shrimp boat stays out during the day ultimately depends on how much the fishermen can catch or if a storm is brewing nearby. Some shrimping boats will only stay out for a few hours, whereas other trawlers could be in one location for several days. If the shrimpers catch large quantities of shrimp during their haul, they will stay out for a longer period as opposed to those who head back to shore sooner if they are not finding any luck.

Most shrimpers trawl within three to four miles of the coast’s shoreline during each of the year’s three commercial shrimping seasons.

  • The first of the three seasons is the so-called white “roe” shrimp season, which occurs in May or June. This season is opened once the DNR determines that an adequate supply of eggs has been bred to produce a good fall harvest. This is generally less than a month long, according to the SCDNR.

  • Second of the three seasons is brown shrimp season. The timing for this season usually begins in June and ends in August. However, this season has been known to be extended as significant quantities of brown shrimp have been caught in October during years when the population of brown shrimp was high, says SCDNR.

  • The third and final season of the year is for white shrimp, which occurs in the fall. It typically produces the largest catch. These shrimp are the offspring of the spring spawn from earlier in the year. Catches, or landings, of the young white shrimp usually begin in the month of August, peaks in September and October and lasts through December and occasionally into January of the next year, according to SCDNR.

Shrimping isn’t as lucrative as it once was a century ago. So, if you’re at a South Carolina restaurant which states “local shrimp sold here,” buying the shrimp helps support the local fishermen who caught them. It also helps guarantee having fresh, locally caught shrimp in your basket the next time you eat out as opposed to internationally caught and frozen shrimp from elsewhere in the world.

Seen any brown pellets on the beach lately?

As you might have guessed, those brown pellets along the shoreline are shrimp excrement — more specifically, ghost shrimp excrement.

Ghost Shrimp, also known as “glass shrimp” for their transparency, are responsible for the holes beachgoers may find scattered along the shores, as well as the numerous little brown pellets that litter the shoreline.

Ghost shrimp are only about 1 to 3 inches long, so they remain pretty small. However, they can dig burrows up to 6 feet deep with openings that are about the size of a pencil. They spend the majority of their lives burrowing.

Since ghost shrimp don’t like to leave the safety of their burrows, all of their poo gets pushed out of the burrows as they like to keep a tidy home.

POOO

The Carolina Ghost Shrimp’s feces can be seen stretching for miles on beaches all along South Carolina’s coast. In fact, the average Carolina Ghost Shrimp can produce an average of 500 fecal pellets a day.

Whether you prefer to celebrate National Shrimp Day by learning more about how shrimp have impacted South Carolina’s culture and ecosystems or celebrate by dining on your favorite fried shrimp basket, bowl of shrimp and grits, or a simple shrimp cocktail, both locals and tourists as well as South Carolina fishermen can benefit. Visit your favorite local restaurant, museum or aquarium this month to celebrate 2022 National Shrimp Day.

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Sarah Claire McDonald is a Service Journalism Reporter for The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. She specializes in writing audience-focused, unique, spotlight stories about people, places and occurrences in the Lowcountry. Originally from the Midwest, Sarah Claire studied news media, communications and English at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she graduated in 2021.

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