South Carolina Shrimp Fishery Assistance Project:
Working together to revitalize the SC Shrimp Industry
The shrimp industry in South Carolina has been a prominent fixture along our coast and helped shape the economic base in many of our coastal communities. Commercial shrimp harvest began in the early 1900’s and as harvesting and processing technology developed coupled with improvements in shipping and transportation, the annual landings of shrimp in South Carolina grew to over 5.5 million pounds in 1995.
However, in 2001 a flood of lower-priced, farm-raised, imported shrimp entered the U.S. market causing the price of shrimp to drop to dramatically low levels equivalent to 1960’s shrimp values. The increase of foreign competition coincided with an increase in domestic labor and operating costs as well as continually growing fuel costs. As a result, economic conditions within the U.S. shrimp industry had developed into what many dubbed, “The Perfect Storm” and industry members as well as the government began searching for mechanisms to sustain and become a viable industry once again.
The Unites States Congress declared an economic fishery disaster for the U.S. shrimp fishery and developed an economic assistance package that would distribute $17.5 million dollars to the shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic states. Of this $17.5 million dollars, South Carolina received $3.6 million dollars and also received an additional $2 million dollars through a separate Congressional appropriation from Senator Fritz Hollings.
Once the $5.6 million dollars was awarded, the industry developed a partnership with Clemson University to work through a collaborative process with the SC shrimp industry and local and state agencies and universities to develop a targeted plan on how to utilize the funds to best meet the immediate and long term needs of the industry. As a result, the Shrimp Industry Task Force was formed to work through this process. The major objectives of the plan called for direct economic assistance distribution to the shrimp industry and development of targeted research and outreach projects to improve upon marketing, branding, seafood quality, infrastructure, food tourism and fisheries management issues. The economic assistance distribution was administered through project partner, Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments. The resulting plan is outlined at the left.