Ocean to Your Plate: The importance of local shrimp

Charleston County News
Lowcountry Shrimp Part 1

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)  All week-long we’re talking about shrimp and how it gets from the ocean to your plate. News 2 turned to the professionals at Tarvin’s Seafood to learn how shrimp is packaged and prepared for local restaurants.

We’re told crews set out when the sun rises and have to pull their last catch before the sun sets. Cynthia Tarvin the owner of Tarvin’s Seafood explains that crews do what is called “drags”. This means they put their nets out 2 or 3 times for a couple of hours and what they catch in those nets is what makes up their day.

To determine where to drag, a small net to learn what’s in the area—the net is pulled every thirty minutes to get an idea of what is being caught in the large nets. On a good drag, crews can catch a couple hundred pounds of shrimp. They dump the catch on deck to sort out anything that doesn’t belong like other fish or jelly fish.

Erica Brown explains, “You pick it out and everything else gets pushed back over and its then dumped into bags and put in here which is full of ice water like a slush bath for them and when they get back they off load it and wheel it into the fish house”.

From there, the shrimp are weighed and sorted based on size. Christy Soleto says everything is sorted by hand, “We don’t have a machine that does it, we touch every single shrimp before it goes out”.

Each day, the team is grading, heading, freezing, sorting, and counting, to get the shrimp from the ocean to your plate.


Part 2: Shrimp is a staple in the Lowcountry, but did you know not all shrimp served at area restaurants is local?

A conservationist said just because you’re eating seafood at one of our restaurants on the coast, doesn’t mean you’re eating seafood that comes from the waters off our coast.

Fisheries in Charleston are managed by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. So, it costs more to purchase seafood from our own docks.

Imported seafood, industrial fisheries have made the availability of cheap seafood really common and really popular— those fisheries have out-competed a lot of our local fisheries, said Kelly Thorvalson, Conservation Programs Manager with the South Carolina Aquarium.

Supporting and eating seafood from unregulated fisheries causes problems for our oceans.

It’s one of the biggest issues that oceans have right now over-fishing and detrimental fishing practices to fly fish or shrimp in from halfway around the globe, that has a much larger carbon footprint and its more environmentally unfriendly then getting it a mile down the road.

To help the industry, locals are encouraged to pay a little more to support the regulations and healthy fishing practices.

It’s really important for consumers to know that where they choose to spend their money on seafood, it dictates the market, said Thorvalson. We’re supporting fish for the future and these fishermen are our friends and neighbors, they are our community, and we need to be willing to support the industry and these fishermen.

Thorvalson says you can’t beat the taste of local shrimp.

It’s on your plate usually within 24 hours. It is so fresh and so delicious and if you have an imported shrimp and local shrimp side by side you can absolutely taste the difference between the two.

Wednesday on News 2 Today, learn about one organization dedicated to helping you know if the food you’re eating is a good catch.


Part 3: News 2 spoke with Kelly Thorvalson, a Conservation Program Manager for the South Carolina Aquarium to learn about a program dedicated to helping you know if the food you’re eating is a “Good Catch”.

She explains that the Good Catch program leads communities in support of local fisheries and responsible harvesting season.

The program defines local as regional sources in North Carolina stretching to the east coast of Florida. These fisheries are strongly regulated to support fish for the future. Thorvalson says a lot is taking into account under these regulations, The size, bags limits, and the seasonality of the fisheries. It’s taking the ecological balances of these species as well as the ocean into consideration.

She believes people should want to eat at Good Catch restaurants, so they know where their food is coming from, The waters off the southeast region are pretty healthy, and we have great fish and seafood coming from our waters… if you don’t know where the seafood is coming from… you don’t know that waters they’re coming out of either.

And if you’re not dining at a Good Catch Restaurant, don’t be shy. Make sure to ask where the seafood is coming from and remember, when you choose local seafood, you become part of the movement to protect our oceans. 

For a list of Good Catch Partners, click here.

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