NEW ORLEANS -- The spring shrimp season in Louisiana, as determined by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is set to start on May 26, but for the many who make a living off the crustaceans, that date is too late.
Scott Dufrene has been a shrimper for more than 40 years. Dufrene said he's been eager to cast his nets.
'We need to go to work. Our boats have been tied up since December. We haven't been making any money,' Dufrene said.
Boats are idle all along the canal near the Pointe Aux Chenes marina. Dufrene and many shrimpers in Pointe Aux Chenes say the May 26 start date doesn't consider what they call 'local knowledge' of the inside waters.
Knowledge like full moons and movement patterns are important, according to Dufrene.
'The full moon is on the 14th, and all the big shrimp that's in the inside (waters) right now, the white shrimp that are inside spawning, they're already spawning, they're going to be leaving for this moon and we're missing that,' said Dufrene.
'Everybody is complaining about that, yeah,' said Jake Billiot, a fellow shrimper.
Jake Billiot said spring shrimp season usually starts no later than the third Monday of May, but this year is different. Billiot and Dufrene say they've heard colder weather and other factors may have affected the later start date.
When the LDWF announced the start of the spring shrimp season, it stated:
'The dates for the 2014 Louisiana spring shrimp season were set today at the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission based on information provided by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists and on public comments. LDWF provided projections of the dates when a minimum of 50 percent of the inshore brown shrimp population would reach 100 count per pound or larger.'
The press release further noted:
'The Commission granted authority to LDWF Secretary Robert Barham to delay or advance these opening dates if biological and technical data indicate the need to do so, and; to close any portion of Louisiana's inside waters to protect small juvenile white shrimp if biological and technical data indicate the need to do so, or enforcement problems develop.'
As far as the consumer is concerned, shrimpers say this late to start to the spring season likely means fewer large shrimp at the market.
But for the shrimpers, the potential losses could be far greater. Billiot predicts he could see his income drop by $10,000 to $20,000.
The cost of gas and ice have made earning a living as a shrimper more difficult, and Dufrene said this year, he may be counting losses before he even starts.