Louisiana’s fall shrimp season is off to a rocky start, with catch levels far below historic averages and payout amounts stymied by low import prices.

Shrimp on a scale. NOAA photo.

“Today is a week and a day, and we have been dragging around the clock,” said Jason Dempster of Dulac, as he piloted the trawler Dayton & Destin through heavy groundswells off the Terrebonne Parish coast in late August. “We have been catching a little bit steady.”

The experience has been the same for captains in open federal waters and inshore bays and bayous. Catch statistics from NOAA bear out the anecdotal reports.

July, a month when the larger vessels trawl in federal waters, saw 6.7 million headless pounds caught in the entire Gulf of Mexico, 44.9 percent below the historic 15-year average for that month.

“The only year that July was this slow was 2010, the year of the BP oil spill, when for July we had 5.5 million pounds,” said David Chauvin of the Bluewater Shrimp company in Dulac, La.

Heavy rains in Louisiana that caused upstate flooding are suspected to have had something to do with the problem, because of a drop in salinity levels. But shrimpers say they have seen other periods with heavy rains that were still bountiful.

Al Marmande, a dock owner in Dularge, La., echoed Chauvin’s words.

“It’s been very slow, the worst I have seen,” Marmande said. “We are all trying to figure it out, and we can’t figure it out. It’s hard to say, and pretty much like a riddle.”

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