The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Robert Barham has extended the fall inshore shrimp season in a portion of state inside waters east of the Mississippi River that was scheduled to close December 21, 2010. Biological sampling data and trip ticket reports indicate that marketable quantities of white shrimp still remain available for harvest in these waters. Typically, the inshore shrimp season closes in late December when only smaller, less valuable shrimp are being caught by recreational and commercial fishermen. However, extended closures in state waters throughout the summer and into fall prevented the shrimp stock from being harvested at levels seen in previous years. The area to remain open to shrimping is that part of Shrimp Management Zone 1 in Lake Pontchartrain, Chef Menteur Pass, Rigolets Pass, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), that part of Lake Borgne seaward of a line extending one-half mile from the shoreline, and a portion of Mississippi Sound. The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission had earlier ordered that the fall inshore shrimp season in the open waters of Breton and Chandeleur Sounds as described by the “double-rig” line close March 31, 2011.
The Commission at its December 2 meeting approved closing a portion of state offshore waters to shrimping effective at sunset December 21, but authorized LDWF Secretary Barham to keep these waters open if necessary to allow continued harvest of shrimp by commercial and recreational fishermen.
The offshore area typically closed to shrimping each year is unique as it typically serves as a refuge to a large number of small over-wintering white shrimp. Additionally, provisions in state statute temporarily exempt the minimum possession count of 100 (whole shrimp) count per pound on white shrimp from October 15 through the 3rd Monday in December. Following December 20, it becomes illegal to possess white shrimp smaller than 100 count per pound. As temperatures drop, smaller sized white shrimp that had been occupying coastal lakes or bays migrate into these waters. Closures during the winter help to protect smaller shrimp so they may grow to larger, more valuable sizes.
As water temperatures warm in spring, large numbers of these over-wintering white shrimp re-enter coastal lakes and bays and quickly grow to very large sizes evidenced by reported statewide white shrimp landings of 11 million pounds in May 2009, worth approximately $14 million.
The offshore closure, if instituted on December 21, would include the portion of state outside waters, south of the Inside/Outside Shrimp Line as described in LA R.S. 56:495, from the western shore of Freshwater Bayou Canal at 92 degrees 18 minutes 33 seconds west longitude to the U.S. Coast Guard navigation light off the northwest shore of Caillou Boca at 29 degrees 03 minutes 10 seconds north latitude and 90 degrees 50 minutes 27 seconds west longitude.
If allowed to take effect, the closure will become effective Tuesday, December 21 at sunset.
All state outside waters east of the U.S. Coast Guard navigational light off the northwest shore of Caillou Boca, as well as state outside waters west of Freshwater Bayou Canal will remain open to shrimping. The Department will continue monitoring the sizes and abundance of shrimp in these offshore waters, so that other actions to close or re-open waters may be taken based on the availability of harvestable shrimp in these areas, while protecting the large numbers of very small white shrimp.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov  on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb  or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.
For additional information please contact Martin Bourgeois at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 225-765-2401.