ATLANTA -- The Georgia House on Wednesday defeated legislation that would have eased regulations on cast nets used primarily by recreational shrimpers.
The floor debate was dominated by coastal lawmakers on opposite sides of the issue, both groups arguing that they were trying to help recreational shrimpers in their districts.
The bill, rejected on a vote of 63-95, would have allowed shrimpers using cast nets with a radius of 7 feet or fewer to apply duct tape, a practice that was prohibited by a law passed two years ago. Duct tape makes it easier to keep the nets open, allowing them to be used in deeper water to catch more shrimp.
Opponents argued the current law has worked well, helping quiet what had been a running dispute between recreational and commercial shrimpers. Rep. Buddy DeLoach, R-Hinesville, said allowing duct tape on the smaller nets would encourage commercial shrimpers to start using them, giving them access to areas now used by recreational shrimpers.
"If you pass this bill, what you will do is create in an area traditionally reserved for recreational fishing a commercial cast-net fishery," he said.
But the measure's supporters said there's plenty of shrimp for everyone.
"They multiply like flies. There are billions of them out there," said Rep. Charlie Smith, D-St. Marys. "You can't make them disappear. You'd have to drain the oceans."
Coastal lawmakers were sharply divided over the issue. Reps. Bob Lane, D-Statesboro, the bill's sponsor; Hinson Mosley, D-Jesup; and Burke Day, R-Tybee Island, joined Mr. Smith in speaking out in favor of it.
The measure's vocal opponents, besides Mr. DeLoach, included Reps. Ann Purcell, D-Rincon; E.C. Tillman, D-Brunswick; Stephen Scarlett, R-St. Simons Island; and Ann Mueller, R-Savannah.
Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424.