The 2016 commercial shrimp season is scheduled to begin the Friday, July 15, according to a statement released by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this week.
The commercial shrimp season closes for approximately two months every year in order to allow populations of brown shrimp to grow to a more profitable size, according to TPWD. This year, the closure began on May 15.
“the purpose of the closed Gulf season is to protect brown shrimp during their major period of emigration from the bays to the Gulf of Mexico until they reach a larger, more valuable size before harvest and to prevent waste caused by the discarding of smaller individuals,” the statement reads.
The National Marine Fisheries Service also closes its waters to commercial shrimping during the state’s annual closure. Federal waters extend from 9-200 nautical miles offshore.
Locally, Port Isabel maintains one of the largest shrimping fleets in the country. Over 130 boats call Port Isabel Shrimp Basin home. Statewide, shrimpers haul in between 40-50 million pounds of shrimp, making for an industry valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Reports for the 2015 season show that shrimp landings were down almost 25 percent compared to historical average, but prices saw increases, according to SaefoodSource.com. Local shrimpers have long been concerned with the price their catches can fetch after low-priced imported shrimp threatened to edge out Gulf shrimp.
With each vessel spending weeks at a time out on the water, commercial shrimping can make for one of the most dangerous professions, said Executive Director of the Texas Shrimping Association Andrea Hance prior to the start of the 2015 season in July.
As the shrimpers take the time during the two-month closure to prepare their vessels physically for the new season, they also prepare mentally and spiritually. Our Lady of the Star of the Sea Catholic church held a special mass for shrimpers, while the TSA hosted its annual Blessing of the Fleet with the Rev. Mark Watters last week.
The 2016 season will commence at 30 minutes after sunset on Friday.
By Dina Arevalo