Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drought Affecting Shrimping in South Catch Down Because Shrimp Not Migrating

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drought Affecting Shrimping in South Catch Down Because Shrimp Not Migrating

Article excerpt

BRUNSWICK -- The drought in the Southeast is even being felt in the water.

The shrimp catch is down as much as 20 percent in Georgia this summer because shrimp aren't migrating to the ocean, where the salinity is 10 percent higher than normal due to the drought, said Jim Music, commercial fisheries program director for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Many shrimp are staying in tidal pools and coastal creeks -- where shrimp trawling boats can't get to them -- because the water there is less salty, he said.

"If I had to roll the dice, then I would say it's basically going to be a below-average year," said Music, who had issued a similar prediction when the season opened May 25.

Previous research by department biologists showed a below-average supply of shrimp since January, but the ones found were larger than normal.

Kenny Atwood, a McIntosh County shrimper and former president of the Georgia Shrimpers Association, said shrimpers need rain.

"The industry is depending on rain and that fresh water to flush the shrimp out where we can get at them," he said.

Significant amounts of rain could turn the season around, Music said. "We don't want a hurricane, but we could sure use a good tropical storm," he said.

Southeast Georgia shrimpers historically have smaller catches in August because of the hot, dry weather. The season generally picks up with cooler temperatures in September and October, state records show.

About 60 percent of the shrimp caught offshore Georgia is shipped to grocery chains. The remainder is shipped to distributors that supply restaurants, state officials say.

Shrimpers in neighboring states also have been suffering from the drought.

Florida's commercial shrimping season opened June 1. Since then, the shrimp harvests are averaging about 10 percent lower than last year, said Phil Steele, a scientist at the Florida Marine Research Institute. …

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