A bounty of local eats from Bowens Island near Charleston.

Get 'em while you can, oyster and clam season ending

The adage goes to only eat shellfish in "r" months, but the season won't officially end for a few more days.

Oyster season ends on May 15 and clam season halts on May 31, and that will be your last chance for fresh local shellfish until October 1.

Because of higher bacterial levels that occur when water temperature is above 80 degrees, shellfish harvesting is prohibited during the summer months. Good thing shrimp season is upon us.

In the meantime, here are a few public service words on maintaing shellfish population and health from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources:

DNR's Shellfish Recycling and Replanting Program continues its efforts to encourage the public to recycle their oyster shells.  Oyster shell recycling drop-off locations are located throughout coastal counties, and collection sites can be found online at saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html. During the summer months, DNR returns the recycled shells to shorelines, where it provides substrate for larval oysters to attach, thereby replenishing the harvested beds. When the quantity of shell needed to replant shellfish grounds exceeds  those that are recycled, DNR must purchase shells from other vendors. Funding for DNR's shellfish restoration and enhancement efforts is provided by a portion of Saltwater Recreational Fishing License funds.

Late spring and early summer are also the busiest months for DNR's community oyster restoration program.  The public is invited to work with DNR staff and other volunteers to create oyster habitat in areas that are not harvestable.  The resulting oyster reefs will provide a host of ecological services including water filtration, nutrient cycling, and habitat for fish and invertebrates.  To see the upcoming schedule of events visit score.dnr.sc.gov and click on calendar.  Or email the community restoration staff at score@dnr.sc.gov.

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