SOUTH BRISTOL, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Maine's shrimp fishing season has turned out to be a big disappointment to people who depend on shrimp for part of their living. The problem: not enough shrimp to catch.
Shrimp fishermen are being given more time to catch what they can though. New England fishing regulators voted today to allow shrimp fishing seven days per week, starting next Wednesday. Up to now trawlers had been limited to four days a week. Regulators also voted to continue fishing until April 12".
Fishermen say the shrimp have been scarce this winter, and they don't expect it to get any better. When New England fisheries managers set this year's season and shrimp quota, fishermen complained they would catch it all in a week.The quota is 625 tons of shrimp, a far cry from last year's quota of roughly 2,200 tons. But after six weeks of fishing, regulators say they haven't even reached half of this year's quota. Hundreds of people along the coast depend on shrimp for income during the winter, and fishermen and scientists agree this year's catch has been a big disappointment.
Fisherman David Osier of Bremen says that not only affects people on the boats, but also dock workers, truckers, shrimp pickers and processors. Retail prices have been unusually high because of the reduced supply, and fishermen say that has helped offset the small catch. But all agree incomes will be down significantly this year.
Shrimp biologist Maggie Hunter of the Maine Department of Marine Resources says they believe warm ocean water is part of the problem. Hunter says the northern shrimp that are found in the Gulf of Maine are a cold water species,and the Gulf of Maine is the southern edge of their range, even in better years. But Hunter says that water temperatures in the Gulf have reached record high levels during the last three years. She says the same thing happened in the 1950's when shrimp populations plummeted.
Later in that decade and the 1960's temperatures went back down and the shrimp returned. Hunter says no one knows if that will happen again. Fisherman david osier says he believes water temperature is a factor, but he says shrimp also run in natural cycles, and is confident they will come back.