Brunswick – Commissioner of Natural Resources Chris Clark has announced that Georgia’s food shrimp harvest season has been extended through Jan. 18.
Trawlers may continue to harvest shrimp in the Atlantic Ocean eastward of the sound-beach boundary. Individuals who use cast nets or beach seines may also continue to harvest food shrimp during this time period.
Patrick Geer, research and surveys program supervisor, said why Clark authorized the extension. "December scientific surveys indicated that shrimp abundance along the coast is below normal and the size of shrimp is variable and well mixed. But catches in most of the creeks indicate at least 40 precent of the shrimp to be of marketable size, with that percentage increasing in waters closer to the ocean.
Surveys indicate above average abundance of shrimp in the near-shore waters, but size is mixed. 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 2009 have been favorable for survival of over-wintering white shrimp.
Water temperatures are normal, and the salinity of Georgia’s estuaries is close to average. The decision to extend the food shrimp season was made in consultation with members of the Shrimp Advisory Panel and can be altered if circumstances warrant.
The number of working trawlers continued to drop in 2009, with licenses down nearly 57 percent from the 1979-2008 average of 613. Numbers in the commercial cast net fishery are in decline as well, with only 39 percent of the allowable 200 licenses sold this season.
"Both groups of commercial shrimp fishers are struggling to make a profit, and the 18-day extension will allow them to continue fishing, if they choose," Clark said.
"Several factors are considered before we make a recommendation to extend food shrimp season." Geer said. "We have to balance protection of overwintering shrimp with the desires fishermen to have additional time added to the season. Given the mixed sizes observed in the estuaries and the above average near-shore abundance, we believe a short extension will provide some additional opportunities to the fishers without impacting the overwintering shrimp population."