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January 3, 2012 | last updated January 3, 2012 3:38 pm

Short shrimp season worries fishermen, processors

The state's shrimp season could be short this year following a drastic reduction in catch limits aimed at protecting the stock from overfishing.

The season, which opened yesterday, has a limit of 4.4 million pounds, about one third of 2011's 13-million-pound limit, according to The Associated Press. The season ends when the limit is reached. Though scientists and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission say the lower limits will protect against overfishing in the Gulf of Maine, fishermen and processors are concerned for their livelihoods, despite an expectation of decent prices, according to Maggie Raymond of the Associated Fisheries of Maine. She predicted the season may not last beyond the month of January. For the first time, shrimp dealers will be required to report numbers weekly, rather than monthly, to better determine when limits are being approached. The commission's shrimp panel is scheduled to meet Jan. 19 to evaluate the harvest, at which time a group of processors including Cozy Harbor Seafood in Portland is planning to petition to raise the limit, citing a stock assessment formula that shows fishermen could catch 10 million pounds without threatening the stock.

Boats from Maine typically catch about 90% of the annual shrimp harvest, with fishermen from New Hampshire and Massachusetts catching the remainder. The industry employs about 1,500 people in the state.

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