La. brown shrimp season cut short

Published 1:12 am Friday, July 4, 2008

State wildlife and fisheries agents have closed waters to shrimping in the state’s eastern- and western-most bays and lakes, bringing to an end a short season for many shrimpers.

The closure was necessary because biologists were seeing a high percentage of small, young white shrimp, said state wildlife and fisheries biologist Martin Bourgeois. The waters were closed to protect those shrimp and allow them to grow to marketable sizes for the fall season, he said.

“It’s devastating. The seasons are short enough as it is,” said Allen Estay, owner of Bluewater Shrimp Co. in Dulac, who described the local season as “fair.”

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The closed waters include the Mississippi-Louisiana border to the eastern shore of South Pass of the Mississippi River. Also closed are state waters from the western shore of Vermilion Bay and Southwest Pass at Marsh Island to the Louisiana-Texas border.

Shrimpers will still be able to work areas within Lake Pontchartrain, Chef Menteur and Rigolets Passes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Calcasieu River Ship Channel and portions of the Mississippi, Breton and Chandeleur Sounds, said biologist manager Brian Lezina.

Some or all of those waters will be closed if data indicates increased levels of juvenile white shrimp are there, Lezina said.

Bourgeois also blamed the large influx of fresh water from flooding in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River for the short season, as well as the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway earlier this year.

“River water is cold, so waters were unseasonably colder and fresher this year, which delayed the recruitment and growth of shrimp,” Bourgeois said.

Shrimpers may see a rebound during the fall season, Bourgeois added. “Typically what you see after flooding events like this are increases. It stimulates productivity. It just takes time.”

“If they close, I would hope they have good reason to do it. Fuel prices are a killer, and with imports driving down dockside prices, it’s a double whammy,” Estay said. “These shrimpers have everything in the world stacked up against them right now.”