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Low-country boil was ‘shrimply the best' way to celebrate state designation
Rep. Jon Burns says Legislature will work on "Georgia grown" laws to protect shrimpers' livelihood
Rep Burns with ECCA zoology students
John Cassell (far left), zoology teacher at ECCA; Speaker Jon Burns (third from left), and Dayle Burns (fourth from right), are pictured with some of the zoology students who researched and petitioned the legislature to designate the Georgia white shrimp as the state crustacean. (Photos by Barbara Augsdorfer/Effingham Herald.)

By Barbara Augsdorfer, Editor for the Effingham Herald

Shrimp is the “fruit of the sea” according to a line in 1994’s Forrest Gump, and now Georgia can claim the white shrimp, Litopenaeus setiferus, as the state crustacean.

Thanks to the research and work done by John Cassell’s zoology students at Effingham College and Career Academy, with support from Speaker of the House Jon Burns and his wife Dayle, Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 1341 into law naming the state crustacean in April.

Rep. Burns, along with school board members, ECCA staff, District Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford, district staff, zoology students and their parents, celebrated the state designation with a low-country boil at the ECCA auditorium May 6.

“Using my zoology class, I simply posed two questions to my students: If we were to designate one new state animal that is specifically a crustacean that we cannot live without, what would it be?” said Cassell. Students initially suggested the hermit crab, but…

Cassell guided the students toward another crustacean, namely the white shrimp. Through their research, students discovered that Georgia’s shrimping industry accounts for more than 80 percent of the total value of seafood caught each year; and the state’s shrimping industry was ranked seventh in the world in 2020.

However, the local shrimping industry faces stiff competition from foreign shrimp sources, so the designation of a state crustacean will hopefully encourage restaurants, wholesalers, and consumers to seek out and buy locally grown, sustainable shrimp and seafood.

India, Ecuador, and Indonesia are the top three shrimp exporting nations to the US, but those export numbers are steadily decreasing.

Shrimp plaque
Rep. Jon Burns was presented with a commemorative shrimp plaque for his work on getting legislation passed to name the Georgia white shrimp the state crustacean.
“Y'all really struck a nerve here, young people, because you brought some great attention to an industry (that’s) so important to our state,” Burns said. “It’s on us now to ensure that we take this one step further. This white shrimp is so important to our economy, (and) has been so important throughout our history since the state was founded.

“We want to ensure that Georgians can enjoy the bounty of our coasts, the Georgia white shrimp that's a pure product and not from a foreign source,” Burns added.

Burns added that the legislature will work on tweaking laws that designate “Georgia grown” for farm products, to include products from Georgia waters.

“We've already started discussions, and (Rep.) Bill (Hitchens) will be a big part of that discussion,” Burns continued. “And the legislature will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we identify the Georgia white shrimp as just what it is – your state crustacean -- that means so much to our economy and those that make a living in coastal Georgia.”

In recognition of the students’ work throughout the project, ECCA STEM Facilitator Shelly Hobbs added, “Little did you know when you started this class project, you would have an impact far beyond a grade in a gradebook.

“Your enthusiasm, creativity, and tireless dedication has been the driving force behind this initiative,” Hobbs said. “Because of your hard work and dedication that we stand here today on the verge of making history for our state.”