Originally created 12/20/97

Harvest smaller this year



BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- Georgia officials plan to extend the commercial shrimping season because of a small shrimp catch.

Commissioner Lonice Barrett of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is expected within the next few days to approve the extension through the middle of January.

The measure is designed to give shrimpers a chance to recoup their losses from an off-season last year and another slow one this year.

"The white shrimp harvest is about 17 percent below the normal 10-year average so far this year," said Jim Music, DNR commercial fisheries program leader. He said the brown shrimp harvest was about 11 percent off the normal 10-year average.

The season normally runs from April through Dec. 31. But the DNR can extend the season up to two more months if the harvest is low or the shrimp are too small to meet the legal size limit and need more time to mature for harvest.

The extension plan was finalized Wednesday by scientists with DNR's Coastal Resources Division headquarters in Brunswick.

Mr. Music said it was possible the white shrimp harvest -- which is a fall and early winter catch -- could increase in the next few weeks.

"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," he said.

Shrimping is an estimated $250 million-a-year industry in Georgia, topping the state's seafood industry in value, according to state commerce and fishing industry statistics.

About 2.5 million pounds of white shrimp and 600,000 pounds of brown shrimp have been harvested this year, according to DNR. Last year, 2.9 million pounds of white shrimp were harvested; 763,000 pounds of brown shrimp were harvested.

Many Georgia commercial trawler shrimpers blame the shrinking harvest on commercial cast-netting and water pollution.