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Ellsworth American
January 3, 2008

Weather, Fuel Costs Complicate December Shrimp Outlook
Written by Stephen Rappaport

ELLSWORTH ? One month after the shrimp season opened on Dec. 1, Maine fishermen are finding it tough to make a buck catching the tiny crustaceans.

So far, according to Les White of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the shrimp are still far offshore. That means boats are burning lots of fuel to get out to the fishing grounds as well as while towing, and that is a problem.

While shrimp prices are a little higher than they were a year ago, the cost of the diesel fuel fishermen use in their boats has increased substantially.

A year ago, diesel fuel cost around $2.20 per gallon. During the last week of December, the cost of diesel soared as high as $3.40 per gallon was expected to average around $3.18 per gallon for the month.

White said that boats fishing in the western part of the state have been averaging hauls of about 300 pounds of shrimp per hour of towing. Although that?s at the high end of the average catch for December, White said, but far less than the extraordinary 550 pounds boat averaged for the month last year. The catch is also more ?mixey? than it was last year, with fishermen finding a large proportion of male shrimp and small female shrimp in their nets.

According to White, the boat price for shrimp ranged between 37 cents and 55 cents per pound, with the best prices going to the handful of boats fishing Downeast. The wide range in the price also reflects what White called a ?quality price system,? based on the shrimp count per pound.

?We haven?t seen that for a couple of years,? White said.

Although the price of shrimp is up, the cost of diesel has made it almost too expensive to go fishing.

?Once you catch enough to pay for the fuel and the crew, there?s not much left for the boat and the captain,? White said. ?It takes the first thousand pounds just to pay for fuel.?

With the shrimp far offshore and the cost of fuel so high, very few boats are rigging over for shrimp Downeast. Last year, White said, not a single boat in the Winter Harbor fleet entered the shrimp fishery, and no boats from that port were shrimping in December. He also said that he expected a handful of boats from Stonington to start fishing in January, once the shrimp begin to move inshore.

The economics of the shrimp fishery had another impact on the fleet, according to White.

The weather in December has been extremely windy, and many boats have been staying in port rather than going fishing. Many boats have been fishing one or two days a week instead of four or five, staying in on days when they might be fishing.

?If there?s bad weather, the price doesn?t make it worth getting beaten up,? White said.
 

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twofinbluna wrote:
It is ABSURD how much diesel costs today

YEAH and they were 45 cents here last week !! To **** with em, let em stay on the bottom.

Don
 
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