NOAA officials predicting below-average shrimp season
HOUMA (AP) — Federal fisheries officials are predicting a below-average brown shrimp season for the next year in waters off Louisiana and federal waters off Louisiana and Texas.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issue an annual prediction of brown shrimp catches based on monitoring juvenile population numbers, growth estimates and the environment.
Federal scientists are predicting a harvest of 55 million pounds of brown shrimp for this month through June 2014. That’s slightly below the historical 52-year average of 56.5 million pounds. They predict the Louisiana portion of that catch to be about 29 million pounds and the Texas portion about 26 million pounds.
“Brown shrimp are important to the economy of Gulf Coast communities,” said Roger Zimmerman, director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s Galveston Laboratory.
“They are popular among seafood consumers and as bait used by recreational anglers. We always like to see plenty of shrimp available in seafood markets and bait shops. But this year recruitment of shrimp larvae to the bays was late, which may impact their abundance.”
About 60 percent of the shrimp harvested in the U.S. comes from the Gulf of Mexico. The total domestic shrimp harvest brought in $518 million in 2011.
According to NOAA, young brown shrimp begin entering the estuaries in Texas and Louisiana in mid-February and continue through July, depending on environmental conditions.
This year, two environmental indicators favored shrimp production: Saline waters in the marshes and winds sustaining the tidal height. But the cool spring temperatures were unfavorable for shrimp growth. Shrimp don’t grow as fast in cooler waters because the temperature affects their metabolism, Zimmerman said. Also, the number of post-larval shrimp peaked later than usual, and the near shore brown shrimp catch in Louisiana in May was smaller than average, about 29 million pounds versus an average of 30.8 million pounds, Zimmerman said.
Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, said shrimp season predictions by NOAA can be hit or miss.
Guidry said he also tends to consider the dead zone forecast issued at the beginning of the summer each year by Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Cocodrie when looking to the next year’s shrimp season.
The dead zone is an area of low to no oxygen that forms off the coast of Louisiana and Texas east summer.