SEABROOK — Local fishermen who for years have been hampered by federal regulators continued to receive bad news yesterday when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission reduced the valuable winter shrimping season landing by almost 70 percent.
According to Red Perkins, manager of the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative in Seabrook, the commission is allowing fishermen to harvest only 625 metric tons of shrimp in the coming season and restricting the days for fishing to Mondays and Wednesdays only until the quota is reached.
The season will begin Jan. 23 for net fishermen and Feb. 1 for trap fishermen. The late start, Perkins said, is to allow shrimp to hatch their eggs, enhancing reproduction levels.
Last year, fishermen were allowed to harvest 2,000 tons, and were limited to fishing just three days a week. The year before, the limit was 6,000 tons and fishing was restricted to five days a week.
The decision to drastically reduce shrimping in New England was made yesterday in Portland, Maine, during a meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which Perkins attended.
The commission’s actions stem from a report filed by its technical committee, which had recommended the shrimp-fishing season be called off entirely due to low shrimp populations in the Gulf of Maine.
“Ocean temperatures in the western Gulf of Maine shrimp habitat have been increasing in recent years and have reached or approached unprecedented highs in the past three years,” the committee’s 2012 assessment report reads. “This suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp and indicates the need for protecting spawning biomass.”
Perkins said the question now for the cooperative is how many local fishermen will rig boats for only two days of fishing a week in a season that could last only a week or two, Perkins said.
This is the third consecutive year regulators cut into the shrimp season. Last season, fishermen were allowed to drag their nets only 21 days in January and February before the shortened season ended.