AUSTIN — The Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp season for both Texas and federal waters will close 30 minutes after sunset on May 15 until a still-to-be determined time in July.
The closing date is based on samples collected by the Coastal Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department using trawl, bag seine and other information gathered from the shrimping industry.
Data collected regarding TPWD bag seine catch rates of brown shrimp, mean lengths of shrimp in April 2014, percent of samples containing shrimp, and periods of maximum nocturnal ebb tidal flow indicate a May 15 closing date is appropriate. Typically, once the shrimp reach about 3 1/2 inches long, they begin their migration to the gulf.
“The purpose of moving the closure date this year is tied to when the shrimp are projected to leave the bays,” says TPWD’s coastal fisheries science director Mark Fisher. “Due to cooler spring temperatures and higher salinities, shrimp growth rates appear to be slower this spring.”
Fisher says the data suggest that keeping the closure date will afford protection to small shrimp as they begin their movement from the bays to the gulf.
“The closure is designed to allow these small shrimp after escapement to the gulf to grow to a larger, more valuable size before they are vulnerable to harvest,” said Robin Riechers, TPWD coastal fisheries division director. “The goal is to achieve optimum benefits for the shrimping industry while providing proper management to protect the shrimp.”
The Texas closure applies to gulf waters from the coast out to nine nautical miles. The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced federal waters out to 200 nautical miles also will be closed to shrimping to conform to the Texas closure.
While the statutory opening date for the gulf season is July 15, TPWD’s Coastal Fisheries Division will be sampling shrimp populations to determine the optimum opening date. The date of the re-opening of gulf waters will be based on data collected in June, but the closure may not be longer than 60 days.