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Sunday, May 23, 2010

New England shrimp fishermen have solid season

PORTLAND, Maine — The combination of a healthy shrimp population, favorable weather and stable markets have made for solid shrimp fishing in New England — so solid, in fact, that the season is closing early because fishermen have caught so many of the small, sweet crustaceans.

So far they've caught nearly 11 million pounds. That's the biggest seasonal harvest since 1997. Because the harvest has exceeded the recommended maximum catch, regulators are closing the season Wednesday, more than three weeks earlier than originally planned.

Even so, the shrimp markets have rebounded from last year when the global recession dampened demand, said John Norton, CEO and president of Cozy Harbor Seafood Inc., a seafood processing company in Portland. Last year's shrimp season began just two months after the financial markets collapsed in October 2008, causing seafood buyers to pull back on their purchases, he said.

"The market was certainly able to handle more volume at a higher price than last year," Norton said.

This season, which began Dec. 1, marked the continued rebound of the markets for New England shrimp since they collapsed nearly a decade ago after fishing seasons were cut back sharply because of weak shrimp populations.
Northern, or pink, shrimp are found in the cold waters of the Gulf of Maine and provide an alternative winter and spring fishery for scores of New England fishing boats that normally fish for haddock, flounder and other so-called "groundfish" that live near the ocean bottom.

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