The U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced its allocation of $1.062 million to help Georgia’s commercial shrimpers affected by the 2013 White Shrimp Fishery failure. The Department of Commerce made the announcement March 27, but has not yet released information about how or when the funds will be disbursed. The Coastal Resources Division (CRD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is awaiting further guidance and will help educate the shrimping industry once that information is made available.
From September through December of 2013, the abundance of white shrimp in Georgia’s estuaries and territorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean was significantly below normal. The catch of white shrimp in the coast-wide Ecological Monitoring and Trawl Survey conducted by CRD during that period was significantly below the 36-year average for the survey.
CRD scientists believe abnormally heavy rainfall during the late spring and summer caused a white shrimp recruitment failure, meaning young shrimp did not survive to reach maturity. Exacerbating the situation was a higher than normal occurrence of black gill syndrome in the white shrimp population during the summer and early autumn. CRD staff believe low shrimp abundance due to poor recruitment and survival and mortality associated with black gill may have resulted in the reduction in white shrimp abundance to commercial harvesters.
In 2014 the State of Georgia petitioned the Secretary of Commerce to declare a fisheries failure for Georgia’s food shrimp industry. The request sought relief funds to provide economic assistance to fishing communities and small businesses affected by the fishery failure and to provide funding to investigate the causes and effects of black gill syndrome.
The U.S. Department of Commerce approved the fisheries-failure declaration request on Aug. 24, 2015. The approval noted the combination of heavy rain and black gill syndrome resulted in a reduction in harvest from the five-year average and the overall value of the Georgia White Shrimp Fishery was reduced by 43 percent from the preceding five-year average.
The determination provided a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. With that recent appropriation, the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Region will work with Georgia to develop an economic spending plan to support activity that will restore the fishery and assist affected fishing communities.
This recent appropriation is separate from another disaster-assistance request made by Georgia county commissioners and the governor of South Carolina related to unproductive water temperatures in January 2018. The 2018 request is still pending, and current Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has not yet made a determination regarding the request.
CRD will update its website at www.CoastalGaDNR.org as more information and guidance from the U.S. Department of Commerce are available. At this time, no further information about funds disbursement is available.