One of the frequently discussed issues with House Bill 501, in the last session of the General Assembly, was the possible existence of a citizen advisory panel regarding oyster mariculture. Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed H.B. 501 into law, which legalizes methods of oyster mariculture in the state.

During a committee hearing on the bill, Les Schneider — a board member for Inland Fresh Seafood, the largest seafood distributor in the Southeast — said he thought it would be a good idea for the legislation to include specifics for “an advisory board made up of the regulators and the distributors and the farmers and the harvesters and all of those folks, let them sit during this interim and have a discussion about this.”

While there won’t be that interim period Schneider suggested, the board is coming into form, which Doug Haymans, director of the Coastal Resources Division of the state Department of Natural Resources, assured legislators in February.

The Shellfish and Mariculture Advisory Panel, as it’s named, will have 11-15 members and operate similarly to already-existing panels like those on shrimp, blue crab and finfish. The panel will be a subgroup of the state Marine Fisheries Advisory Council.

The shellfish panel is to include, “a maximum of four Department of Agriculture-certified shellfish dealers and four CRD- permitted master shellfish harvesters; a minimum of two recreational shellfish harvesters or coastal county residents; one non-DNR scientist experienced with shellfish science and affiliated with an academic institution in Georgia; one Georgia Department of Agriculture food safety officer; and one related business owner such as a restauranteur.”

People who are interested in serving on the panel need to pick up an application at coastaldnr.org/citizenadvisorygroups or in person at CRD headquarters in Brunswick, and submit that application by June 7 to Dominic Guadagnoli at CRD.

“For over 25 years, the (CRD) has convened members of the shrimping and crabbing community when deciding management measures for those species and we’ve recently reestablished an advisory panel for finfish,” Haymans said in a statement. “To date, we’ve relied heavily on the Georgia Shellfish Growers Association to provide feedback on oysters and clams, but with recent interest in growing the shellfish industry in Georgia, it makes sense that CRD develop an advisory panel dedicated to shellfish.”

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