The commercial shrimping season closes in state waters at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources announced.

The state's 2011 legal trawling zone, which normally opens in late May or early June after the peak spawning period of white shrimp, opened on June 22 after being delayed several weeks due to the impact of unusually cold water temperatures on the state's overwintering white shrimp.

This delayed opening combined with closure of federal waters to trawling off South Carolina for several months contributed to the successful rebuilding of the white shrimp populations seen this past fall.

The SCDNR has various measures to determine season opening and closing dates, including water temperature, predicted weather patterns, DNR trawl survey information, landings data, economics of the fishery and ongoing discussions with trawl operators. Typically, analysis of these factors results in the closure of the commercial shrimp trawl season around the middle of January each year.

"DNR sampling trawls  collected below average numbers of white shrimp in late summer and fall of 2011, but size was larger than average," DNR biologist Larry Delancey said. "If temperatures remain mild, there should be adequate amounts (of shrimp) for spring spawning."

Three seasons define the commercial shrimp fishery calendar. The
first, white roe shrimp season, opens in the spring when the DNR has judged that an ample quantity of these shrimp have had an opportunity to spawn. The brown shrimp season typically occurs during the summer months, and the larger fall white shrimp season, composed of offspring from the spring roe crop concludes the remainder of the three seasons in the fall.

The shrimp trawl fishery is South Carolina's most valuable commercial fishery, with close to $6 million worth of shrimp landed each year. The majority of those landings are white shrimp.