MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Consumers are shelling out more for oysters in the Charleston-area this fall, as freshwater runoff from Tropical Storm Irma delayed the harvesting season.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control helps oversee the commercial and recreational oyster harvest, which usually begins at the end of September, but was pushed back until Oct. 15 this year due to concerns about poor water quality.
“This year it’s been pushed back a little extra. We’re hopeful it will pick back-up soon. We’re pretty confident confident about sales this year,” said Ben Kicklighter, an employee at Mount Pleasant Seafood. He said the oyster supply is lower than usual.
The freshwater deluge from Irma will result in a prolonged recovery and add expenses to the seafood-industry for shipping in oysters from other parts of the country. Other major storms in the Gulf of Mexico are further pressuring prices.
“The storm that we had brought in a lot of excess water and dirt through the area,” said Kicklighter.
For the commercial harvest of shellfish in Charleston, a specific saltwater license is required, along with mandatory training. Other permits are sometimes required depending on the location of the harvest.
Harvesters are asked to “cull in place,” or discard dead shells and smaller oysters along the shoreline to help with conservation efforts. Recycling oyster shells is also encouraged by state officials to preserve oysters for future seasons.
The recreational shellfish season will remain open through May 15, 2018, unless conditions change and the season is shortened, according to DHEC.
While the season is open, it remains important for harvesters to verify whether any closures remain in effect. This information is available at 1-800-285-1618 and can be viewed by clicking here: