Gary Libby of Port Clyde said fishermen like him were expecting this season, which started Jan. 2, to last at least through February, especially when they’re seeing a good amount of shrimp.
“To cut off the dealers right now, it’ll be third year in a row they’ve been cut off prematurely and that will damage the markets,” he said.
Shrimp provide a small but valuable fishery for hundreds of New England fishermen. The fleet this year comprised 225 boats from Maine and 31 from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Citing a report showing shrimp stocks in decline, regulators set this year’s catch limit at 4.4 million pounds, later increasing it by about 10 percent to 4.9 million pounds. Fishermen and shrimp processors, upset with the small quota following a 2011 harvest that totaled 13.3 million pounds, argued that the scientific model used to determine the harvest limit is flawed and underestimates the shrimp biomass in the Gulf of Maine.
Processors and fishermen offered up an alternative scientific assessment to regulators that would allow for a bigger catch, a longer season and more jobs in the shrimp industry. It’s been estimated the shrimp industry in Maine employs more than 1,500 people, from fishermen and workers who help unload boats to truck drivers and processors.
During yesterday’s conference call, things got testy after regulators from New Hampshire suggested that panel representatives from Maine were manipulating the regulatory process. New Hampshire officials wanted to shut down the season today, but Maine representatives said they couldn’t do so because they were legally obligated to advertise the closing date in newspapers, thus pushing the closure date back by a day.