While they are cautious about labeling the problem as climate change, an increasing number of Louisiana shrimpers say they want state officials to take a closer look at how harvesting seasons are set.

A small but vocal group of shrimpers attended the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in May that included the question of when the 2017 inshore season should open on its agenda. Traditionally it begins on whatever Monday in May biology reports and some market considerations indicate, based on the size of the shrimp and their predicted growth, and it has run in the past from very early in the month to very late. This year, the opening was set for May 8 in the state’s central zone, and May 15 on the eastern and western ends.

Shrimpers noted that warmer temperatures had been prevailing in April, and the climate data supplied by state biologists verified that.

“We know the weather has been getting warmer in recent years,” said a Dularge dock owner Al Marmande.

This year, shrimpers reported from their vessels after the opening that larger shrimp had already left the estuary system and headed to the Gulf of Mexico out of their reach.

“Put yourself in the feet of the fishermen,” Pointe-aux-Chenes fisherman, Arthur Billiot, told commissioners. “If it is ripe, pick it. Don’t wait till it falls off the vine.”

State officials said they will continue monitoring conditions in the future for trends but are not yet convinced a rollback will be necessary.

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John DeSantis is the senior staff writer at The Times, a newspaper in Houma, La. and regularly contributes to National Fisherman.

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