DNR announces South Carolina oyster season closes Mon. May 15

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Oyster season will reopen in October - BEN REITZ
  • Ben Reitz
  • Oyster season will reopen in October
That's a wrap, y'all. The SC Department of Natural Resources has announced that as of this Monday — precisely at "one half hour after official sunset" — wild oyster season is over.

Now, technically, there is no such thing as oyster season. Oysters don't vanish in the off season. Yes, yes, we know what you're thinking. What about that whole "R" months saying? Well, the reason why people have been prohibited from harvesting oysters here during the summer is because of water temperature and food safety risks.

As SCDNR's website explains, "higher bacterial levels occur when water temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit." Summer is also when wild oysters spawn, and, as thekitchn.com adds, "in preparation for spawning, oysters convert glycogen stores to gamete (sperm and eggs) ... and they get soft and rank." Yum!

With all that in mind, SCDNR limits shellfish harvesting during the summer months to commercial harvesters who can meet rigorous handling requirements. Once the temperatures cool in October, recreational oyster season reopens.

That said, the Department of Health and Environmental Control has recently instituted some new language to allow for oyster harvesting and handling year-round, something oysterman Cyrus Buffum of Seaborn Oyster Company recently talked about in City Paper's spring Dirt issue.

"With the advent of modern refrigeration and the explosion of aquaculture (producing farm-raised oysters from hatchery seed), new regulations are warranted," Buffum said.
"But there are two important takeaways to note. First, the approved language to allow summer harvest of oysters has not yet been presented to the state legislature. Secondly, the new regulations will likely pertain only to farm-raised triploid oysters — a sexless oyster with three chromosomes — and not to our wild oyster population. Triploid oysters do not exhaust themselves in the summer months as is the case with most wild (diploid) oysters, ultimately remaining plump and meaty year-round."

So it's possible year-round harvesting  added that should year-round harvesting pass, it will come with "strict measures to ensure public safety and quality of product."


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