CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Commercial shrimp trawling is set to open in all legal South Carolina waterways on Thursday morning.

Harvesting season typically opens in full by mid-to-late May after the opening of eight smaller provisional areas in the outer waters.

“South Carolina’s favorite seafood will soon be more widely available at docks and markets along the coast.”

SC Department of Natural Resources

But officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) said those provisional waters opened at the end of April, which allowed shrimpers to begin harvesting some larger white shrimp further offshore while “still protecting most of the spawning population closer to shore.”

A factor in setting an opening date for shrimp season each year is based on the condition of the shrimp themselves, according to SCDNR. Biologists will sample and study the shrimp while aboard commercial and agency vessels.

One thing they are looking for is evidence that a majority of female white shrimp have already spawned at least once.

“We monitored the progress of white shrimp spawning by conducting regular sampling all along the South Carolina coast throughout the month of May,” said biologist Jeff Brunson, who oversees crustacean management for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Opening the season too soon – which would allow trawlers to catch females before they’ve had the chance to spawn – would likely reduce the size of the fall white shrimp crop, which are offspring of the spring shrimp.

“According to our assessments, adequate spawning has occurred to ensure that harvest is sustainable and that offspring from the spring spawning stock will be abundant enough to support the important fall shrimp crop,” said Brunson.

The season will open Thursday, June 1 at 8:00 a.m.