shrimping

The shrimpboat Lady Denise is shown in the St. Simons Sound in November.

The end of the year also means the end of the current Georgia shrimping season, which is legally required to shut down at 6 p.m. Monday — that covers the traditional three miles from shore covered by state regulations.

According to the state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division, activity has to cease on trawling, cast-netting and seining, and other food-shrimp harvesting efforts. However, “anglers and commercial bait-shrimp dealers may continue to harvest shrimp to use as bait.”

In the past, there have been times when the season extended into January, but data analyzed by DNR staff and opinions expressed by the Shrimp Advisory Panel led to the conclusion there’s not enough abundance of shrimp in the water to justify an extended season.

“Generally speaking, CRD will recommend allowing the season to close as scheduled when the shrimp become smaller, and the weather gets colder,” Carolyn Belcher, chief of the CRD Marine Fisheries Section, said in a statement. “Given the poor catches recently observed, CRD staff decided it would not be in the ecosystem’s best interest to extend the season.”

While the shrimping industry continues to change and evolve along the Georgia coast, it remains an economic driver. At present, the latest information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates American shrimp consumption is at the highest levels ever, and the most-consumed seafood in the country, at 4.4 pounds of shrimp eaten, on average, per person per year.

And while more than 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the United States comes from overseas, there are efforts to change that pattern.

“Other markets have restricted imports of shrimp because of repeated findings of banned antibiotics — and even forced labor — in shrimp aquaculture,” John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said in a statement. “The United States remains the largest and most open market, so low-quality shrimp products that are rejected from the European Union, Japan and other major shrimp markets are likely sent here for whatever low price they can get.”

But for locally caught shrimp, there is some good news — the latest numbers from NOAA show that for last year, shrimp landings in the South Atlantic states hit $71.4 million, which is the largest number in nearly 20 years.

Shrimping typically reopens in Georgia waters in mid-June.

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