BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Authorities will close Georgia waters to commercial and recreational shrimping at 8 p.m. Sunday because of the dwindling population of harvest-size stock.
Commissioner Lonice Barrett of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources made the closing decision at the recommendation of biologists who have been monitoring the shrimp harvest. It is the first time in 11 years that state officials have not granted an extension of the season into January.
The action affects commercial trawlers working within Georgia's territorial waters, which extend 3 miles off shore, as well as commercial and recreational shrimpers working inland waters and the shoreline with cast nets.
In a similar measure, South Carolina officials announced that they will close that state's shrimping season Jan. 3.
Georgia wildlife biologists have been monitoring the abundance of shrimp as well as the size of those found along the coast, said Jim Music, commercial fisheries program leader for the DNR. Earlier this month, Georgia shrimping industry officials had urged the state to extend the season into January.
But Mr. Music said samples taken in early December revealed a below-average population of shrimp.
"With the recent cold weather, as well as the long-range forecast for continued cold, stocks are very low and the anticipated harvest appears minimal," Mr. Music said Thursday.
He said authorities earlier in the week had received reports of harvests containing a mixture of smaller-sized shrimp, especially along the northern coast where the population is lowest.
"It is in the best interest of both the resource and the fishery to close the season so as to maximize the spring spawning potential," Mr. Music said.
Georgia and Florida shrimpers have been reporting below-average harvests throughout the season.
Georgia's shrimping season normally runs from mid-May through Dec. 31.
The Florida shrimping season is open 10 months a year. It closes in April and May, when shrimp spawning peaks.