Shrimp fishing in Maine will be expanded to seven days a week until April 12 because of the small catch so far this season, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said Friday.

The shrimp season was curtailed by nearly 75 percent in December after scientists warned that the shrimp population was at risk because of overfishing and environmental conditions.

The catch so far this season has been lighter than expected. The additional days will allow fishermen to harvest shrimp before young, smaller shrimp begin to emerge later in the season, the commission said.

So far this season, trawl fishermen have been allowed to catch shrimp four days a week, and trap fishermen have been allowed to work six days a week. The extended seven-day schedule will start next week.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section also eliminated the 500-pound daily catch limit for trappers, giving fishermen who use traps an unlimited daily catch.

The commission said the season will close April 12 unless the harvest yields 85 percent of the total catch limit before then. The catch limit is 1.38 million pounds, down from 5.3 million pounds last year.

The increase in fishing days will help fishermen choose which days they go out, but it won’t make a huge impact financially because this season’s catch is so light, fishermen said.

“There’s not too much shrimp left. It won’t have a huge impact on a lot of guys,” said Glenn Libby, one of the owners of Port Clyde Fresh Catch, a processor and community-supported fishery in Port Clyde. “If you can find some shrimp, you can pick your days more easily now — go out when the weather is good.

“Fuel’s expensive,” he said. “You can’t afford to go out when the weather is bad, and the catch tends to be lower.”

The season for trawlers began Jan. 22 and the trap season began Feb. 5. The number of fishing days was expanded and the daily catch limits were changed in February because of the weak catch. Friday’s decision expands the days further and eliminates the daily catch limit.

The scallop and groundfish fisheries also are limited this year to protect the species.

Scallop fishermen are operating under new regulations that divide the state into three zones and establish a rotational system for harvesting.

Meanwhile, the catch limit for Gulf of Maine cod was cut by 77 percent this year.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]

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