BRUNSWICK — Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Clark announced recently that Georgia waters will open for commercial and recreational harvest of food shrimp at 6 a.m. Tuesday, June 8. Effective on that date, commercial shrimp trawlers can operate in Georgia’s territorial waters open to power-drawn trawls. Commercial and recreational cast netters, as well as people using beach seines can harvest shrimp from waters open to the use of these gears. Recreational and commercial cast net fishermen are reminded that they are required to use cast nets with a minimum mesh size of five-eighths of an inch.
Commercial shrimp harvesting with power-drawn trawls is restricted to a period from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Federal waters (beyond three miles offshore) are open for shrimp harvest 24 hours a day. Trawler operators are reminded that they must have certified bycatch reduction devices and turtle excluder devices in their trawls while operating in both state and federal waters. Trawl fishermen should watch for further advisories on BRD and TED requirements issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Georgia DNR Conservation Rangers, the United States Coast Guard and NMFS agents will enforce BRD and TED requirements.
Trawler operators also are reminded of the 1,000-foot boating safety zone along the beaches of Tybee Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. The boating safety zone rule is in effect through Sept. 30. Motorized craft, recreational, personal and commercial, are prohibited in these zones during this period.
"Catches of shrimp in coast-wide scientific surveys have continued to be below normal in our creek and sound stations, but well above normal at stations located in traditional fishing grounds just offshore," said Jim Page, the Coastal Resources Division biologist responsible for monthly shrimp sampling. "Water temperatures are presently 10 percent above normal and count size looks great so we believe adequate numbers of white shrimp have had an opportunity to spawn."
"After considering the results of shrimp population sampling, environmental and economic factors and discussions with our shrimp advisory panel, we believe opening on June 8 will allow trawlers and other commercial fishers to take advantage of the valuable white shrimp in state waters," said Patrick Geer, chief of marine fisheries for CRD.
Call the Coastal Resources Division at 912-264-7218 for information on the opening of the 2009 food shrimp harvest season. Call NMFS Protected Resources Division at 727-824-5312 for information on federal requirements for BRDs and TEDs in shrimp trawls.