Originally created 12/19/97

Georgia to extend shrimping season



BRUNSWICK, GA. -- Citing a harvest 11 percent to 17 percent below-normal, state fisheries officials plan to extend Georgia's $250 million commercial shrimping season at least through mid-January.

The extension, which is supported by shrimpers and seafood industry officials, is awaiting final action in the next few days by Commissioner Lonice Barrett of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

This has been one of the worst harvests since the early 1950s, according to Jack d'Antignac of Darien, who is immediate past president of the statewide Georgia Fisherman's Association.

"All the heavy rains that we've had will force the shrimp out of the inlets and creeks offshore into the ocean where they can be harvested," said Jim Music, DNR commercial fisheries program leader.

But many trawler shrimpers, including d'Antignac, blame the shrinking harvest on commercial cast-netting and water pollution.

"The recreational cast-netters don't hurt anything," d'Antignac said. " But the commercial cast-netters are the problem. ... They are catching them before they get big enough to move offshore."

Trawler shrimpers suspect that pollutants such as lawn fertilizer and pesticides found in groundwater runoff that then flows into shrimping grounds is also hurting the annual harvest, d'Antignac said.

Those issues are under review by the state House and Senate Shrimp Fishery Study committees, which plan to issue a report by Dec. 31 containing recommendations affecting Georgia's commercial and recreational shrimping industry.