May 31, 2004

 

 

Summit Likely To Delay Start Of Shrimp Season In US State

 

South Carolina's commercial shrimping season likely will be delayed until mid-June because of security risks involving the G8 summit in nearby Sea Island, Ga.

 

Georgia shrimpers will not be allowed to fish in state waters until at least June 14, after the summit is complete, said Dale Theiling, a biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

 

The summit takes place June 8 to 10 and includes government officials from eight countries, including the United States, England, Canada, Germany, France and Russia.

 

"It would take daily inspections of boats and would take hours and hours to go fishing," said David Whitaker, a biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. "Just to simplify things, they've chosen to keep their waters closed. The fishermen are in agreement that should happen."

 

Georgia and South Carolina normally start their commercial seasons at the same time.

 

It is the latest start for the commercial shrimping season in the past three years.

 

In 2001 the season was held off until late June because the industry had not recovered from a cold snap that killed most of the roe shrimp.

 

The season has started by June 10 for the past two years.

 

The white shrimp still will be available when the season opens, Theiling said.

 

Brown shrimp, a different species, will arrive by July.

 

Early testing show catches of white shrimp will be better than average this year.

 

Meanwhile, shrimpers with larger boats are staying busy by dragging their nets in federal waters, which stay open throughout the year.

 

But some fishermen cannot afford the gas to fish that far out, said Herbie Cusack, an employee at Stormy Seas Seafood in Georgetown.

 

Diesel fuel is now about $1.50 a gallon, he said, compared with $1.05 at the same time last year.

 

Smaller boats use gas, which has risen to about $2 a gallon. Shrimp boats can hold several thousand gallons of gas, he said.

 

"They can't drag for these roe shrimp, they couldn't never make any money," Cusack said. "They would probably burn about 75 gallons a day, and that's not counting the wear and tear on the engines."

 

Hard times have been with Grand Strand shrimpers since 2000, when a cold snap killed most of the roe shrimp.

 

Federal waters were closed that year from March until June to save the few shrimp that were left.

 

Commercial shrimpers across the Lowcountry are hoping for a good season this year but still are battling low prices paid for their product.

 

Last year, shrimpers caught 100,000 pounds of white shrimp and more than 1 million pounds of summer brown shrimp.

 

The price paid for local shrimp has dropped from $6 to about $3 a pound. The price paid by the consumer also has remained low because of the availability of foreign shrimp.

 

Shrimpers in North and South Carolina are fighting a flood of foreign imports and low prices for their product. Shrimpers have said competition with foreign shrimpers is reducing the price and quality of the product.

 

The Southern Shrimp Alliance is pushing for federal legislation that would put tariffs on low-priced shrimp shipped from overseas. Shrimpers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas have joined the alliance and have filed a lawsuit against eight countries that produce foreign imports.