BILOXI, Miss., May 12 (UPI) -- A regional fisheries panel in Biloxi, Miss., has imposed a cap on the number of shrimp boats that can operate in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council narrowly approved the 10-year moratorium Wednesday in an unprecedented attempt to save the ailing $500 million gulf shrimp fleet, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
The number of shrimp boats would be capped at 2,666 -- the number with valid permits as of Dec. 6, 2003, the first year permits were required. The U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to approve the moratorium.
The cap would not apply to inshore shrimp boats fishing only in state-controlled waters. Those extend three miles off the coast of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, and nine miles off Texas and Florida.
Many boats work in state waters because increasing fuel prices have made longer trips to federal waters impractical.
High fuel costs and intense competition from cheaper, imported shrimp has forced 2,000 gulf shrimpers out of business in the past two years.