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Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 9:00am

Shrimp Harvest Down So Far

It was a rough winter for Georgia’s shrimp industry.

Fisherman caught 69,000 pounds of shrimp from January to May, 13 percent of the 10-year average of 537,000 pounds for that same period.

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources blamed the cold winter for pushing shrimp farther out to sea.

DNR Chief of Marine Fisheries Patrick Geer said cold weather in 2000 had a similar effect on winter and spring catches. But the white shrimp population recovered by the fall.

“They had slightly above average catches in the fall [in 2000],” Geer said. “Intuitively, it doesn’t make much sense, but when [the shrimp] produce, they produce hundreds of thousands of eggs, and if environmental conditions are right, you may get high survivability.”

“That’s what we’re hoping for right now,” he said.

The fall is when most shrimp are caught in Georgia, and most of those are white shrimp. Brown shrimp are mostly caught during the summer, and Geer said their population is up a bit so far this year.

“We have seen rebounds, and these animals are very prolific,” Geer said. “They mature at a very young age -- 3 to 6 months and they’re mature -- so it’s going to be very hard for this species to be decimated, so to speak. They rebound very quickly.”

The shrimp caught so far are mostly from federal waters. DNR officials delayed the opening of the state’s shrimp season to give adult shrimp more time to spawn.

Geer cautioned against relying too heavily on the total amount of the catch.

He said the real measure of how shrimpers are doing has to take into account the number of boats out trawling for shrimp.

“You can’t compare 1,500 boats in the 1970s and their effort and their catch to what’s happening now,” Geer said. “You have to have that effort information.”

Geer said, on average, shrimp fishermen caught about 700 pounds per trip since 1989. But in 2009 and 2010, they hauled in more than 11-hundred pounds per trip.

Last year, 300 trawlers helped make Georgia’s shrimp industry worth $9 million.

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