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January 24, 2013

New local shrimp season under way

Shrimp fishermen have begun casting their nets with the start of New England’s shrimp-fishing season.

The season got under way Wednesday, but isn’t expected to last long with a quota of only 1.4 million pounds of Pandalus borealis, down sharply from last year’s catch of 5.3 million pounds.

An Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission panel set the allowable catch for the upcoming season — about a quarter of last year’s catch of about 5.3 million pounds — following a warning from scientists that the Gulf of Maine shrimp population is in poor shape due to environmental conditions.

Net fishermen this winter have a quota of 1.2 million pounds and can fish only two days a week.

Trap fishermen can begin pulling their shrimp traps on Feb. 5. They have a quota of 200,000 pounds.

The new season comes nearly a full year after the last season was abruptly shut down in February on the premise that fishermen had already exceeded their allowable catch of 4.9 million pounds. But shrimp fishermen and processors had said the shrimp stocks are in good shape and that closing down the fishery only hurts shrimp processors’ marketing abilities. That contention is the latest of several between fishermen and their federal regulators over the validity of studies regarding seafood stocks.

Shrimp fishing provides a small but important winter fishery. Maine boats account for about 90 percent of the catch, with New Hampshire and Massachusetts boats catching the rest, and much of the Massachusetts shrimping fleet based out of Gloucester.

The shrimp fleet last year included 225 boats from Maine, and 31 combined from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The shrimp fleet last year included 225 boats from Maine, and 31 combined from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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