SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Shrimping season just began but it could soon become considerably shorter because of black gill. A microscopic organism is causing the problem and scientists with the University of Georgia's Skidaway Institute of Oceanography are seeing it develop earlier than ever.
WTOC's Marla Rooker boarded the RV Savannah with researchers on Monday as officials sample shrimp in the area near the Wassaw Sound.
Trawling for shrimp is no easy task and neither is identifying what is causing black gill among Georgia's shrimp population.
After emptying out the trawl net Ashleigh Price, Graduate Student at Savannah State University, gave us a better idea of what we are dealing with by saying, "it looked about 20 to 25 percent had black gill which is pretty significant."
It is significant because black gill has been present in shrimp in the past but normally does not show up during shrimping season until about August. The concern is for the shrimping industry as a whole. Don't worry the shrimp are still safe to eat. But what is causing it?
Dr. Marc Frischer, Professor with the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography said, "here we have discovered it is due to a ciliate, we do not know what that ciliate is yet."
Price added, "the ciliate attaches to the gills, it is the immune response causing the black."
It is a single celled parasite. By measuring and pulling out the gills, maybe someday soon the ciliate causing the black gill can be identified. In the meantime more fieldwork is ahead and public school Science Technology Math and Engineering efforts were a big topic on board.
The RV Savannah was full of Georgia teachers. The Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education at Georgia Southern University has a plan for the educators.
Robert Mayes, Director for the Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education at Georgia Southern University explained by saying, "bring teachers in too to try to get them to to get them to do real world authentic problems with kids, so we try to get them out into the field to work with scientists and businesses."
Who knows, it might be the case, a student of a teacher on the boat will solve the mystery of black gill.
WTOC will keep you informed on any further research having to do with black gill.
For more information on the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and RV Savannah click here.