State, local leaders request fishery disaster declaration

State, local leaders request fishery disaster declaration

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Shrimping season is officially underway in Georgia and South Carolina.

As boaters are casting their nets, local and state leaders are calling on federal help to provide relief on the money lost due to winter weather. Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott and Congressman Buddy Carter have both sent letters to the U.S. Department of Commerce requesting a fishery declaration be declared for Coastal Georgia.

Winter was tough in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry this year, affecting water temperature. Before Tuesday, state waters have been closed since Jan. 15 to harvesting of brown, pink and white shrimp. Federal waters closed to shrimping back on Jan. 24. Since the water closures, shrimpers have not been able to make money by harvesting those specified shrimp.

According to Carter's letter, the seafood industry in Georgia has an economic impact of more than $1 billion.

"The financial hardship that they have suffered as a result of the waters being closed has been substantial, and they need this financial relief, and that's why I sent to letter to the Secretary of Commerce," he said.

We spoke to one fisherman Tuesday who says this is a necessary lifeline.

"We've got two months of our fishery that's gone and we have a very short period of time that we're able to shrimp," said George Gale, shrimp harvester.

George Gale and his family run a shrimp harvesting business, but due to the water restrictions and quality, he's forced to find another way to provide for his family.

"Well, that's the reason why I'm going to North Carolina to fish in North Carolina because they have a better brown shrimp season in the month of July," he said.

We asked Gale how much money he's lost because of the altered fishing schedule.

"I would assume about $85,000."

Congressman Carter understands the pain these industry workers are feeling. He says their line of business is highly profitable.

"In the state of Georgia, it's responsible for over a billion dollars in revenue for our state."

Al Scott also sent a letter requesting a declaration for disaster relief on May 29. If the declaration were to be approved, federal money would be provided to fishermen to help with disaster relief.

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