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Though they already face reduced catch limits and fewer fishing days, some Maine shrimp fishermen might also have to use certain gear modifications when they trawl for the crustacean, according to officials.

But Patrick Keliher, acting commissioner of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, said Wednesday that he hopes to convince federal officials to make shrimp boats exempt from the gear requirement, which also applies to groundfish vessels. The rule requires shrimp trawlers in the far western Gulf of Maine to use 12-inch “rock hopper” bumpers on their nets, which are designed to keep fishing nets from getting caught on rocks or in soft ocean bottom.

Keliher said he learned in late December, only days before the Gulf of Maine shrimp season started on 2 January that federal regulators were planning to enforce the rule this season. He sent a letter 30 December to the regional National Marine Fisheries Service office in Gloucester, Mass., asking federal regulators to delay enforcement of the rule until next winter.

“Adding this new requirement to the industry and to the state managed fishery process at the eleventh hour is unacceptable,” Keliher wrote in the letter.

NMFS officials contacted Tuesday and Wednesday did not provide any response or comment on the issue by Wednesday evening.

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