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JUNE 21 - Commercial Food Shrimp Season Off to Good Start in Georgia's Territorial Waters

SBJ Staff Report

June 21, 2010 – Amidst the crisis in the U.S. Gulf, Georgia’s critical shrimp fishing season opened on June 8, with the waters now open to power-drawn trawls. Commercial and recreational cast netters, as well as persons using a beach seine can harvest food shrimp from waters open to the use of these gears.

“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,” according to Jim Page, the Coastal Resources Division (CRD) biologist responsible for monthly shrimp sampling.

“Water temperatures are presently 10% above normal and count size looks great so we believe adequate numbers of white shrimp have had an opportunity to spawn,” he adds.

“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,” explained Patrick Geer, chief of marine fisheries for CRD.

As of March 1, 2009, both recreational and commercial cast net fishermen are required to use cast nets with a minimum mesh size of 5/8-inch. Commercial harvest of food shrimp with power-drawn trawls are restricted to a period from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Federal waters (beyond 3 miles offshore) are open for food shrimp harvest 24 hours a day.

And, there have been other changes in regulations for the commercial shrimp industry. Trawler operators must not e certified on Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) and Turtle Excluder

Devices (TEDs) which must be in use on their trawls while operating in both state and federal waters. The Georgia DNR Conservation Rangers, the United States Coast Guard and NMFS agents all enforce BRD and TED requirements.

Trawler operators must also adhere to a 1,000-foot “Boating Safety Zone” along the beaches of Tybee Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island which is in effect from May 1 through September 30. Motorized craft, both recreational and commercial and including personal watercraft, are prohibited in these zones during this period.

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