PORTLAND — Fishermen are casting their nets as the Gulf of Maine shrimp fishing season kicks off.

Shrimp boats from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts take to the waters each winter for the sweet northern shrimp, with Maine boats typically accounting for about 90 percent of the catch. This winter’s season begins today.

The season this year is expected to be a short one, with regulators setting a catch limit of 4.4 million pounds for the upcoming season, down from the 13 million pounds allowed last season.

Scientists say the smaller catch is needed because of overfishing and declining shrimp populations. Many shrimp fishermen and processors say there are enough shrimp to justify a bigger catch limit, and that the smaller harvest will have extreme economic consequences.

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