BRUNSWICK — Commissioner Mark Williams announced recently that Georgia’s food shrimp harvest season will be extended through Jan. 10. Trawlers may continue to harvest shrimp in the Atlantic Ocean eastward of the sound-beach boundary. Individuals who use a cast net or a beach seine also may continue to harvest food shrimp.
Patrick Geer, chief of Marine Fisheries, explained the extension. "December scientific surveys indicated shrimp abundance along the coast is at or above normal levels compared to long-term averages, and the size of shrimp are variable but overall of marketable grades. As usual, there is still consumer demand for fresh, domestic shrimp. These factors led to the recommendation to extend the food shrimp harvest season."
The department has extended the food shrimp season every year since 1978, except for 1983, 1989 and 2000 when severely cold weather in November or December caused water temperatures to drop to lethal levels for white shrimp. Conditions thus far in 2010 have been favorable for survival of over-wintering white shrimp. Water temperatures and salinities of Georgia’s estuaries are within normal ranges when compared to long-term averages. The decision to extend the food shrimp season was made in consultation with members of the Shrimp Advisory Panel and can be altered if emergency circumstances warrant.
The number of working trawlers rose slightly in 2010, though license sales remain down nearly 50 percent from the 1979-2009 average of 605. Numbers in the commercial cast net fishery are in decline as well, with only 31 percent of the allowable 200 licenses sold this season. Both groups of commercial shrimp fishers are struggling to make a profit, and the 10-day extension will allow them to continue fishing, if they choose.
"Several factors are considered before we make a recommendation to extend food shrimp season. We have to balance protection of over-wintering shrimp with the desires of fishermen to have additional time added to the season. Given the abundance coast wide, we believe a short extension will provide some additional opportunities to the fishers without impacting the over-wintering shrimp population," Geer said.
For more information on the extension of food shrimp season, call 912-264-7218.