Trawling for trash: Using recycled shrimp nets to remove marine debris

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has come up with a creative way to clean up the Georgia coast and provide financial support to local commercial shrimpers whose income was limited during the pandemic.

Through Trawl to Trash, funded by the National Sea Grant College Program, commercial shrimpers are recruited to sew bags made of recycled shrimp net material that can be used to collect marine debris.

“It’s exciting to find a new purpose for these trawl nets and who better to make the bags than the shrimpers who have spent countless hours mending their nets ahead of shrimping season?” said Dodie Sanders, marine educator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and lead on the Trawl to Trash project.

The shrimpers earn $20 for each bag they sew.

One fisherman, Jonathan Bennett, used the money he earned from the nets to pay the people working for him.

“It was extra money, it helped us out,” said Bennett, a fifth-generation commercial shrimper from Brunswick, who now captains his own boat, the Flying Cloud. Bennett has been shrimping since he was four. His grandfather taught him how to repair the shrimp nets.

Jonathan Bennett sews a Trawl to Trash bag

Shrimper Jonathan Bennett sews a trawl to trash bag made from a recycled trawl net.

“For years I was the only man on the boat who knew how to sew so I got pretty good at it,” he said. He and his grandfather, who is still a shrimper, joined the Trawl to Trash project during the off season when their boat was being repaired.

In an effort to produce more bags for outreach efforts, Sanders teamed up with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium to recruit additional shrimpers into the program. As of January 2022, 15 shrimpers in both Georgia and South Carolina have earned a total of $30,700 for 1,535 bags.

“This opportunity came along at a great time, in that shrimpers are making the bags in between the peak of the brown shrimp season and white shrimp season, when landings and income are lower than the rest of the year,” said Graham Gaines, living marine resources program specialist at the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and partner on the project.

A participant in one of the trawl to trash education programs learns how to sew the bags.

A participant in one of the trawl to trash public programs learns how to sew the bags.

With more than a thousand bags in hand, Sanders and other educators at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island have been working to distribute them to the public through education programs and community science efforts.

“We’re educating and engaging ecotour guides, students, recreational boaters beach goers and others who can make a difference by alleviating the impacts of marine debris,” Sanders said.

As part of their outreach effort, the team launched a Marine Debris Community Science Program, which engages volunteers in removing marine debris from barrier islands and salt marshes along the Georgia coast while tracking what they collect using the Marine Debris Tracker App.

Since April 2021, community scientists involved in the program have conducted more than 25 marine debris cleanups across three sites on the Georgia coast and collected thousands of items.

They are also working with ecotour guides who have been certified through Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Coastal Awareness and Responsible Ecotourism program. The guides are providing bags to their customers and encouraging them to collect debris while exploring Georgia’s beaches and barrier islands.

This summer, educators will deliver hands-on afterschool programs to Boys and Girls Clubs in Chatham and Glynn Counties, educating the next generation about marine debris and encouraging them to make difference by using the Trawl to Trash bags to clean up their communities.

“These efforts illustrate and reinforce the importance of building community capacity and encouraging behavior change as a way of supporting the long-term prevention of marine debris,” Sanders said.


Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 336-466-1520
Contact: Dodie Sanders, sandersd@uga.edu, 912-598-2340


UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant funds projects that support Georgia’s seafood and tourism industries

A seafood pitch competition launched by UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will award funding to seven projects that support Georgia’s working waterfronts and seafood products.

The competition, called What’s the Hook?, is funded by the National Sea Grant College Program and is designed to help individuals and businesses in the seafood industry recover from economic disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, small business owners, university professionals and non-profit organizations presented their ideas to a committee representing diverse businesses, cultures, and communities in coastal Georgia.

One of the awardees, Amy Spinks will use the funding to relaunch a web site for The Darien Social, an online blog she owns and operates to highlight social events and historical places around Darien, Georgia. Spinks says the website will feature six new blogs that spotlight Georgia’s fishing community, seafood industries, local businesses and cultural experiences.

“I love Darien. I want to see the businesses succeed, and with a social marketing platform they have more exposure and can get more business,” said Spinks, who launched The Darien Social after moving there from Atlanta in 2020. After trying and failing to find a central platform for events in the area, she decided to start her own.

“[The Darien Social] has just grown and grown, and to see it go to the next step, I really feel like it’s going to bring financial revenue and impact to the businesses that we support and businesses in the community,” said Spinks.

Bob Pinckney, director of entrepreneurship at the UGA Terry College of Business, also received funding. His project, “Georgia Seafood on My Mind,” will support diverse, off the beaten path businesses and restaurants in each of Georgia’s six coastal counties through the development of marketing content that businesses can use to promote their seafood and tourism offerings.

“In working with startup businesses all the time, one of the biggest challenges is how do you market yourself and how do you do it cost-effectively?” said Pinckney. “This looked like a great opportunity to match up some [university] resources and give some of these restaurant owners a leg up in terms of getting people to be made aware of what they have to offer.”

Pinckney will be working with students at the UGA New Media Institute as well as students in the UGA Entrepreneurship Program on capstone projects to assess businesses and help them come up with strategies for expanding to the next level. They will also create promotional content, like videos and photos, that businesses can use to market themselves on social media or in other materials.

“We’re really excited about this grant and the opportunity for students to have to work with local businesses and promote something that we think is very important for the state of Georgia,” said Pinckney.

The projects selected for funding were awarded based on their ability to promote Georgia’s unique coastal seafood-related experiences, build the resilience of Georgia’s working waterfronts, strengthen Georgia’s local seafood and tourism-related industries, and assist businesses with redefining their operations or business models in response to the pandemic.

The full list of awardees include:  

  • Oyster Trail Development – Patrick Holladay, Georgia Grown Trail 17
  • The Agnes Marie Experience – Don McGraw, Coco’s Tybee Island
  • Coastal Georgia Aquaculture Exhibit & Tours – Charlie Phillips, Sapelo Sea Farms, Phillips Seafood & The Fish Dock Bar & Grill
  • Georgia Seafood On My Mind! – Bob Pinckney, UGA Entrepreneurship Program
  • A Catalyst for Coastal Seafood Eco-Tourism – Alex Smetana, Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce
  • The Darien Social Relaunch – Amy Spinks, The Darien Social
  • More From the Shore – Marty Williams, God’s Oceans, LLC

More information about the projects, including the videos of the pitches are available at https://gacoast.uga.edu/whats-the-hook/



UGA seafood pitch competition aims to boost coastal economy

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is looking for innovative ideas to help individuals and businesses in the seafood industry recover from economic disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s the Hook?” is a seafood pitch competition, funded by the National Sea Grant College Program and designed to generate ideas that support Georgia’s working waterfronts and seafood products. Winners can receive up to $15,000 to complete their projects.

“We hope the competition serves as a creative means to help coastal entities adapt to the changing conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also building resiliency in our working waterfronts and further promoting what makes our coast unique and attractive to our visitors,” said Bryan Fluech, associate director of extension for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Fluech, who is leading the program, modeled it after Maine Sea Grant’s successful Buoy Maine competition, which funded 10 projects covering a variety of topics, from promoting women-owned seafood businesses to creating a brand for specialized seafood products.

Georgia’s seafood industry suffered from supply chain issues, market uncertainties and staffing shortages during the pandemic. Despite the setbacks, the interest in locally sourced seafood continues to grow, providing new opportunities.

Any business or non-profit is eligible to participate in the competition. Ideas should accomplish one or all of the following objectives: Promote Georgia’s unique coastal seafood-related experiences; build the resilience of Georgia’s working waterfronts; strengthen Georgia’s local seafood and tourism-related industries; and assist businesses with redefining their operations or business models in response to the pandemic.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant faculty and staff will select the applicants they believe have the most competitive projects and meet the objectives of the competition. Those will be asked to present a five-minute pitch during the What’s the Hook? Seafood Pitch Competition in January 2022. The pitch will be evaluated by a committee representing diverse businesses, cultures and communities in coastal Georgia. Winners will have six to eight months to complete their projects.

More information about how to apply for the competition is available here https://gacoast.uga.edu/whats-the-hook/


Writer: Hayley Hunter, hayley.hunter@uga.edu
Contact: Bryan Fluech, fluech@uga.edu, 912-264-7269

Seven students selected for Sea Grant Research Trainee program at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

Seven students from universities across Georgia have been selected to participate in the year-long Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program. The students will work with faculty and professional mentors to conduct marine research and gain new professional skills.

Research conducted by the trainees will address one or more of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s four focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, and environmental literacy and workforce development.

“By pairing students with academic and professional mentors, and immersing them in interdisciplinary research experiences, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is helping prepare a diverse workforce for jobs in the future,” says Mona Behl, associate director of Georgia Sea Grant.

The trainees will design research projects that build on their dissertations or theses while connecting with extension and education specialists at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant who will help share their work with coastal communities. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is a UGA Public Service unit.

Samantha Alvey

Samantha Alvey

Samantha Alvey is a master’s student in biology at Georgia Southern University. As part of her traineeship, she will be studying antibiotic resistance in coastal waters.

Bacteria are able to develop resistance to antibiotics and enter streams and rivers through wastewater discharge and runoff. These bacteria accumulate on river sediments where recreational activities, like fishing and boating, re-release the bacteria into the water where they can cause disease. Alvey will collect water and measure how the amount of antibiotic resistance bacteria changes when sediment is disturbed by human recreation. She will also examine the potential for the resistant bacteria to spread from rivers to the coast, which will be useful to inform water policy aimed at reducing ecological and public health risks.

“This program not only provides essential resources to support my research but also opportunities to communicate my findings to my peers and the public through conferences and public outreach events that I might not otherwise have access to during my graduate program,” Alvey said.


Courtney Balling

Courtney Balling

Courtney Balling, a Ph.D. student in the departments of Integrative Conservation and Geography at UGA, is researching the environmental drivers of septic system failure.

Coastal areas are especially at risk of septic system failure in the coming decades due to sea level rise and changes in rainfall patterns. Balling will look at how environmental conditions, like tidal fluctuation and precipitation, impact bacterial concentrations in groundwater near residential septic systems. This research will be shared with officials working in public health, wastewater, and planning to help create sustainable wastewater solutions for the future.

“I would love to be a part of an extension service. I truly enjoy research and community engagement, and extension would allow for both. This traineeship is allowing me to gather more of the skills I’ll need for that kind of work—everything from grant writing and research design to strategic communication and community partnership,” Balling said.


Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick is a Ph.D. student at UGA studying food science with a focus on food safety. Her project will focus on food safety hazards in aquaponics, a sustainable agricultural practice that integrates aquaculture and hydroponic farming.

Dorick will study a commercial aquaponics system, looking at what pathogens, like E.coli and salmonella enterica, are present and where they are most prevalent within the system. This research will provide more insight into foodborne pathogen risks in the aquaponics industry and will provide valuable information to other commercial aquaponics farms that could prevent the introduction of these pathogens in their systems.

“The traineeship will contribute to my research goals by funding a research field that is creating an innovative and sustainable method to produce fresh food sources to urban, rural, and food desert areas in Georgia,” Dorick said.


Monét Murphy

Monét Murphy

Monét Murphy is an undergraduate student pursuing a double major in marine science and environmental science at Savannah State University. Her project will involve studying benthic foraminifera in the Savannah River Estuary. Benthic foraminifera are tiny, single-celled organisms that can serve as bioindicators of environmental conditions in marine environments, including natural variability and human impacts. They are generally well preserved in the fossil record.

As part of her project, Murphy will study foraminifera distribution and abundance in samples collected before, during and after the deepening of the Savannah River harbor. This research will determine if the upstream extension of saline waters due to Savannah harbor deepening has impacted foraminifera distribution and if these changes have the potential to be impacted in the sediment record.

“The traineeship program will help me better communicate my results, the importance of benthic foraminifera, and the impacts of harbor deepening to stakeholders and how the study of the fossil record informs us of the range of past climatic, coastal and oceanographic conditions,” Murphy said.


Alexandra Muscalus

Alexandra Muscalus

Alexandra Muscalus is a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech. Her research focuses on hydrodynamics and coastal impacts of the wake generated by container ships, which pose public safety hazards and have been linked to rapid shoreline erosion along shipping channels.

Muscalus will study sites in the Savannah River to measure the wave characteristics and energy of ship wake in the main shipping channel as well as nearby secondary channels. Her research will be beneficial in providing new information for coastal managers when it comes to mitigating impacts of low-frequency wakes on shorelines.

“The traineeship will allow me to conclude my thesis work in a way that transforms my previous findings into meaningful and actionable results for stakeholders. At the same time, it will provide a means for me to interact with stakeholder groups and help me decide in which specific direction I would like to take my career,” Muscalus said.


Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney is a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech. Her traineeship will involve researching how different types of organic compounds identified from predator waste products can improve how oysters defend themselves against predation.

Working with researchers at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Shellfish Research Lab, Roney will introduce two organic compounds in a hatchery system that have been shown to induce defensive responses in oysters. The goal is to produce a stronger, well-defended oyster that can increase the success of restored reefs and living shorelines as well as the productivity of farmed oysters, enhancing oyster restoration practices as well as oyster mariculture efforts.

“With the trainee program, I can work with not only my academic and scientific advisor, Marc Weissburg, but also the director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Shellfish Research Lab, Tom Bliss, learning about the ins-and-outs of the shellfish industry in Georgia and the ways scientific research can be beneficial and applicable to the trade,” Roney said.


Megan Tomamichel

Megan Tomamichel

Megan Tomamichel is a Ph.D. student at UGA’s Odum School of Ecology researching black gill disease in shrimp. Her project involves developing a stock assessment model of shrimp populations that incorporates black gill transmission and harvesting strategies under ongoing oceanic warming.

The model will account for the impacts of black gill on shrimp, and it can be used to inform management strategies for shrimp harvest under changing environmental conditions.

“I was interested in applying to the Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program to support my current research addressing a disease of concern in Georgia fisheries. This program aligns with my goals to use science as a tool to help support the people and ecosystems of the Georgia Coast,” Tomamichel said.

UGA partners on state’s first commercial fishing career pathway, a workforce development program for high school students at the coast

Herbert McIver, better known as Truck, grew up working on the water alongside his father who was a commercial shrimper out of McIntosh County, Georgia.

McIver, now a marine resources specialist at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, spent 40 years in the shrimping industry, working his way up from deck crew to captain of his own boat.

“Shrimping was a family affair,” he said. “I started working when I was 9 or 10 years old, going out with him and heading shrimp on the back of the boat.”

McIver left the business in 2012, which has become a common theme in the industry over the last several decades. There were 1,400 trawling license holders in 1979. Today there are just over 200. Those who remain despite increasing operating costs, cheaper imported shrimp, regulatory changes, and fewer working waterfronts are having trouble finding qualified help to work on the boats.

University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is partnering with McIntosh County Academy and Coastal Pines Technical College on a dual-enrollment program that teaches high school students about safety at sea, basic navigation and seamanship, common commercial fishing practices, and an overview of fisheries science and management.

Man showing a student a small fish

Bryan Fleuch (right) teaches a student how do identify and sort fish sampled during a trawl.

McIver and Bryan Fluech, associate director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, helped develop course materials for the career pathway program and are serving as guest instructors.

So far, they have taught students how to mend and sew nets that are used on shrimp trawlers and led the class on a trip using nets of different lengths and mesh size to demonstrate how to select the right gear. The class also participated in a series of outreach trawls aboard Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s R/V Georgia Bulldog where they learned how to sort and identify fish.

“We’re giving students actual hands-on experience so that they’re not having to be taught as soon as they step on a vessel,” said Robert Todd, the instructor for the four-part course. Todd is a fourth generation commercial fisherman whose family owns Todd Shrimping, Inc. When he is not shrimping with his father, he teaches audio/video technology and commercial fisheries at Mcintosh County Academy.

In addition to working a shrimp boat, Todd hopes to introduce students to related opportunities outside of the industry.
“I have had two students go full time into shrimping, and I have one student that just graduated that is actually looking into becoming a DNR [Department of Natural Resources] law enforcement agent,” he said. “Getting students exposure to careers that surround the industry, whether it’s the Coast Guard, the DNR, the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant office, TowBoatUS, it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re giving these kids career choices.”

Two students use a net in the ocean

Students learn how to use a seine net as part of the fishing careers course.

Chris Simmons, a recent graduate of McIntosh County Academy, completed the course in 2021. “Fishing is a big thing around so here, so I figured I’d look into it,” said Simmons, who was born and raised in McIntosh County. He had little experience working on the water prior to the course.

“The class is fun. You’re not just stuck in a classroom reading textbooks and information off of a screen. You’re actually going out there and doing it,” he said.

Seven students have completed the pathways course so far, and Todd expects to double the number of registered students this fall now that students are back to in-person learning.

McIver looks forward to continuing to share his knowledge with students participating in the program.

“I’m just excited to be able to pass it on to the kids, you know, because somebody taught me,” he said. “It’s fun for me just to see them pull in crab traps and bait them and see their eyes light up. I know they’re doing it because they’re really interested.”

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348, ext. 107
Contact: Bryan Fluech, fluech@uga.edu, 912-264-7269

UGA helps shape the future of seafood safety

Seafood specials at the Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market in metro Atlanta can include Caribbean red snapper, crawfish or golden pomfret, a popular southeast Asian fish with soft white flesh.

With eight stores and hundreds of employees, it’s important that the Norcross-based retailer ensures safety of its seafood.

“We deal with so much seafood that knowing how to transport [and] carry it safely for our consumers is essential,” says Kathy Rivers, human resources director for the international Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market.

Nam Dae Mun has sent at least 14 employees through UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) seafood safety course. The government-mandated training helps seafood professionals learn to spot and prevent potential safety hazards from the time seafood arrives on the loading docks until it goes out the market doors.

“Learning how to create a HACCP plan was pretty important to us,” says Rivers, who participated in one of the training sessions herself a few years ago. “Figuring out how it was all connected, not just to my consumers’ lives, but to my own life because I eat a lot of seafood in my house, was important as well.”

Federal and state regulations require that all wholesale facilities processing, distributing or storing seafood have at least one employee—or hire a consultant—who has been trained in seafood HACCP.

“The training teaches participants how to identify and prevent biological, chemical, physical, and other food safety hazards to protect their products, company reputation, and ultimately, consumers,” says Tori Stivers, seafood specialist at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

HACCP is the primary program for assuring the safety of fish and fishery products processed and imported for sale in the US.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has offered HACCP training since 1997; Stivers has been the point person since 2011.

In the last 24 years, the organization has trained 889 seafood professionals.

Typically, the training occurs in-person over three days. Stivers and instructors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Georgia Department of Agriculture educate participants about the principles of HACCP, teach them how to identify species and process-related food safety hazards, and determine critical points in their process where hazards can be controlled.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Stivers transitioned her in-person HACCP training to a virtual format so that businesses could continue to operate.

“During a time when a lot of businesses were struggling, some food retailers and wholesalers actually saw a huge increase in demand because consumers started rushing to grocery stores,” says Stivers. “Offering virtual HACCP training ensured that businesses could continue to operate and meet the needs of consumers.”

Thirty-five people from 10 different businesses and state agencies participated in the seafood HACCP trainings in 2020. Through these trainings, the economic value of jobs created or sustained last year reached $1.74 million.

In addition to continuing the training, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant received funding from the National Sea Grant College Program to implement a COVID-19 rapid response program for seafood processing facilities in Georgia. As part of the program, Stivers is providing free, on-site assessments of facilities to evaluate how they have adapted their operations during the pandemic and recommend additional cost-effective interventions.

“We were constantly making sure we were keeping up with the latest guidelines for handling food for customers,” says Rivers. “Tori assisted in the review of our pandemic plan for our business and what safety measures and protocols we put in place. Some of the foundation of what we had [in the pandemic plan], like contact tracing, was part of the preventative controls that are in a HACCP plan.”

UGA partners with fishing industry to expand market while protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is working with commercial fishermen to test advanced gear that could expand their catch while protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The ropeless fishing gear would allow boats easier access to black sea bass, which are caught using pots that are lowered to the ocean floor with vertical fishing lines connected to floats that sit on top of the water. Fishermen set those pots for a period of time before retrieving the pots and lines at the end of each trip.

Currently, from November to April the fishing boats have to go about 30 miles offshore to set their pots in order to avoid the right whales that migrate south during the winter to calve. That makes the trip more expensive and more dangerous.

“The use of ropeless gear could potentially remove nearly all entanglement risks to the whales and other marine animals,” says Bryan Fluech, associate director of extension at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

From New England to Florida, researchers and fishermen are exploring ways to adapt their gear to spare the right whales. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries estimates that 85% of right whales have become entangled in fishing gear at least once. NOAA has identified two areas critical for right whales: off the coast of New England, where the whales forage for food in warmer months; and off the southeast coast from North Carolina to Florida, where the whales reproduce between November and April.

Fluech prepares a ropeless fishing device for deployment.

Fluech is collaborating with Kim Sawicki, project lead and doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth. Sawicki serves as the president of Sustainable Seas Technology, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the use of innovation and technology in the safe and sustainable harvest of seafood.

In the summer of 2020, the research team secured a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service to test eight different ropeless gear systems with black sea bass pots off the coast of Georgia. It was the first time the ropeless gear had been tested in the South Atlantic.

“It’s nice to know that for this area, we’re really on the front end of this,” Fluech says.

Each gear type is rigged, deployed, and retrieved in a different way. Some devices use lines stored on spools or in bags or traps that sit on the ocean floor. Others have inflatable lift bags or buoys that float the pots to the surface. The devices are triggered by acoustic technology or timers that activate their release.

Fishermen use fishery-specific GPS software to locate the pots from above water.

“Normally you would just have a line and buoy in the water 24-7, but what we have to do is purposely tell these devices when to release the line and buoy and then we simply drive up to it, and keep fishing as normal,” Sawicki says.

Retrieving the gear takes less than two minutes and the fishing vessels stay within 20-30 feet of the line and traps during the retrieval process, leaving little opportunity for the whales to become entangled, a problem that has nearly eliminated the right whale. Only about 360 remain in existence in the wild, according to NOAA.

Fluech and Sawicki tested the devices alongside local fishermen, who provided boats and crew for the field experiments. This relationship has been the key to determining the practicality of the gear.

“Is it time effective? How long will it take for the average fisher to learn to use these gears?” Sawicki says. “We wanted to look at all of the issues surrounding the use of this gear through this very particular fishery.”

Throughout the testing period, the research team leaned on commercial fishermen for their institutional knowledge and feedback.

“The project, it holds merit in my eyes,” says Bill Nutt, a fisherman from Deland, Florida, who recently got back into commercial fishing after a 20-year hiatus. Nutt volunteered his time for the project, working as a mate on one of the fishing vessels the team used to conduct field studies.

“You definitely don’t want to endanger the whales, but you’ve got to make a living, so the devices have to be cost effective,” he says. “If there’s something you can do, you should do it.”

Next steps for the project team include reporting their findings to NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council early this year, and hopefully obtaining funds for additional trials and research.

“We hope this pilot study will serve as a catalyst for more formalized research into the application of this gear as an approved gear that would ultimately allow these fishermen to fish in areas that are currently restricted,” Fluech says. “At the end of the day if we can show that this gear is efficient and these guys can still catch fish and protect the whales, that might be incentive to grow the fishery and still meet conservation goals.”

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, 912-598-2348 ext. 107, ekenworthy@uga.edu
Contact: Bryan Fluech, 912-264-7269, fluech@uga.edu

UGA updates Georgia fishing guides for recreational anglers; makes information available online

Looking for the best fishing hot spots in coastal Georgia?

You’ll find them and more in the Guide to Coastal Fishing in Georgia map series, recently updated by UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant thanks to a Coastal Incentive Grant from the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The series includes six guides, one for each of Georgia’s coastal counties: Chatham, Liberty, Bryan, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden. Originally published in the late 1970s, the guides provide information about recreational saltwater fishing in Georgia. Each guide includes a map of the inshore coastal waters within each county and features popular fishing spots for different types of species.

“Whether you are new to saltwater fishing or a seasoned pro, the updated guides will help better connect anglers to our state’s coastal resources, while highlighting the importance of responsible harvesting practices and coastal stewardship,” says Bryan Fluech, associate director of extension at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and lead on the map project. “Although the guides were originally designed for recreational fishermen, anyone who is interested in learning about coastal Georgia will benefit from their content and maps.”

The updated guides feature locations of public boat ramps, marinas, tackle shops and public fishing locations, as well as how to measure fish, guidance on tying different types of knots, and tips on responsible harvesting practices for finfish, blue crab, shrimp and shellfish.

In addition to reprinting the maps, the project team worked with the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government to design a digital version of the fishing maps that allows anglers to search for their favorite fishing locations from their computer, tablet or smartphone.

The interactive map allows users to turn on and off various layers to find out where to go when targeting specific species or locating boat ramps and marinas. Information about Georgia’s artificial reefs and recreational shellfish harvesting areas along the coast is also featured. Downloadable, high-resolution PDFs of each county-based map are part of the new online resource.

The Coastal Georgia Online Fishing Map along with details on how to obtain physical copies of the new guides can be found at: https://gacoast.uga.edu/outreach/resources-outreach/fishing-resources/.

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348, ext. 107
Contact: Bryan Fluech, fluech@uga.edu, 912-264-7269

Connecting Georgia seafood producers to consumers during the coronavirus pandemic

As farmers and food distributers struggle to get their products into the hands of consumers, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has teamed up with UGA Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture to generate business for the seafood industry.

The Ag Products Connection, a partnership between UGA Extension and the state agriculture department’s Georgia Grown program, is designed to connect farmers and seafood producers with customers around the state looking to source local food products. Businesses can sign up to have their companies promoted through the online platform, which lists local businesses by county.

A man dumps a basket of vermillion snapper in a cardboard box at a seafood farm.

Photo by Peter Frey

“The resource was developed for producers who had a glut of product. Some were selling to school systems or restaurants, but now they don’t have those avenues of customers,” said Tori Stivers, seafood and marketing specialist for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “With this program, they can market directly to consumers who can serve as new source of revenue for them.”

Stivers is working with fisheries specialists in UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to promote the resource to seafood professionals, many based on the coast, who are dealing with a surplus of product during the pandemic. She recently shared the resource with a list of more than 150 seafood wholesalers in Georgia, encouraging them to sign up.

“My hope is that it provides some income to those who have seen their business drop during this time so they can keep as many employees on the payroll as possible,” Stivers said. “If they can supplement their business by going directly to consumers, it might help them stay open.”

Some seafood businesses, like Southside Shellfish in Savannah, have already signed up for the program.

“We’ve seen a decline in clientele, but we’re still here and we’re still operating,” said Hope Meeks, owner of Southside Shellfish. “That’s why I think this resource will be so good because people keep calling and asking if we’re open, which we are.”

Meeks’ business  has been involved in commercial crabbing since 1991. The retail business began in 2007, with the opening of a market in south Savannah. In addition to local blue crabs, they sell black sea bass, snapper, flounder and other seafood native to the east coast.

Large, fresh fish in cardboard box at a seafood farm

Photo by Peter Frey

“I’m hoping that this will bring in our regular customers as maybe new customers that don’t already know we’re here,” she said. “We have raw and cooked seafood, so for those who are skeptical about eating out, this is great way for people to source shellfish and fish products you can catch in our area.”

Georgia’s seafood producers and wholesalers who are keeping regular hours, providing curbside pickup, home delivery or e-commerce sales during the COVID-19 crisis can join the program by visiting the Georgia Grown Ag-Products Industry Promotion or Georgia Grown E-Commerce Promotion pages and filling out forms that will add their information to the statewide database of producers that is being shared with consumers and buyers.

Consumers can find seafood resources listed by county here https://extension.uga.edu/ag-products-connection.html

Georgia Grown — a state membership program designed to help agribusinesses thrive by bringing producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, agritourism and consumers together — is waiving all membership fees for the service until July to help producers affected by the crisis.


Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 336.466.1520
Contact: Tori Stivers, tstivers@uga.edu, 770.460.2506

Georgia Sea Grant awards funding for seven coastal research projects

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program at the University of Georgia has announced funding for seven new projects that will advance coastal science in Georgia. The diverse projects include investigations into policy barriers related to oyster aquaculture, tidal river flooding in upland communities, the development of artificial bait for the commercial blue crab fishery, impacts of black gill on shrimp, oyster pathogens, and the function of salt marsh ecosystems.

The projects are part of Georgia Sea Grant’s request for proposals process, which occurs every two years to address research priorities identified by coastal stakeholders.

This year, Georgia Sea Grant is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Acidification to fund a project looking at whether sediments increase or decrease the susceptibility of Georgia’s coastal waters to ocean acidification.

“By leveraging our federal partnerships, we can expand coastal research that addresses Georgia stakeholder concerns,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “These projects will help coastal communities, allow resource managers to plan and implement better policies, and engage scientists throughout Georgia in applied research and outreach.

The two-year projects include researchers from five universities in the state, including: The University of Georgia, Savannah State University, Georgia College, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia Southern University.

The 2020-2022 research projects and the lead investigators are:

  • Optimizing Georgia’s Shrimp Fishery in the Age of Black Gill – Marc Frischer, University of Georgia
  • Addressing Policy Barriers and Promoting Opportunities for the Success of Oyster Aquaculture in Georgia – Scott Pippin, University of Georgia
  • Tidal Channel Network Dynamics and Salt Marsh Ecosystem Functioning along the Georgia Coast – Amanda Spivak, University of Georgia
  • Expanded Head of Tide Determination of Georgia’s Coastal Rivers: Influences of Upland Riverine Flooding, Tidal Inundation, and Stochastic/Storm-surge Events – Christopher Hintz, Savannah State University
  • Field Testing a New Synthetic Sustainable Bait for Georgia’s Blue Crab Fishing Industry – Charles Derby, Georgia College
  • Role of Sediments in the Susceptibility to Ocean Acidification in Coastal Habitats – Martial Taillefert, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • How do Environmental Conditions and Oyster Population Genetics Influence Pathogen Prevalence and Intensity? – John Carroll, Georgia Southern University

Information about Georgia Sea Grant research topics, funding and current opportunities can be found at https://gacoast.uga.edu/research/funding/current-projects/

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