News that the shrimping season in Maine will be closed for a second year in a row has midcoast fishermen and seafood suppliers worried about the future of their industry. And the ban is likely to continue for at least a few years.

On Nov. 5, Maine regulators placed a moratorium on the shrimping season because of another year of nearly record-low numbers of shrimp. The all-time record for fewest shrimp was set last year.

“Basically at this point, the managers had no other decision but to keep the moratorium,” said Lucy Van Hook, fisheries program coordinator at the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association.

That decision is difficult for the local seafood industry, which relies on shrimp to tide it over through the winter.

“That’s a huge part of our business,” said Troy Wallace, who works at Plant’s Seafood in Bath. “We depend on that shrimp season to get us through to the next season.”

Wallace said Plant’s typically sells up to 7,000 pounds of shrimp. “There’s really no other avenue to make it up,” he said.

Glen Libby, who runs Port Clyde Fresh Catch, a fisherman’s co-op, said his business will also suffer as a result of the moratorium.

“It’s a real killer for us at Fresh Catch. We depend on that through the winter months,” Libby said. “We try to fill in with crab meat, but most of your crab meat market – a good percentage of it – is in the summer. We’ve gone from nearly 100 pounds a week at the local store down to two or three.”

The moratorium has allowed a few fishermen to head out and catch a small amount of shrimp that will be sold for research purposes. However, the number won’t be high, and it won’t fill the gap.

“I know if we had shrimp, we’d have business in the wintertime,” Libby said. “It’s a fair amount; it’s enough to really make a good difference for us in the wintertime. It’s not a huge amount, but it doesn’t take a huge amount to turn the tide.”

The shrimping ban may continue for a few more years. Although studies have shown that there are large numbers of smaller shrimp than there were last year, those shrimp won’t be available for fishing for years to come, Van Hook said.

“They won’t be large enough to enter the fishery until 2017,” she said.

The life cycle of shrimp also causes issues when it comes to regenerating the population. Shrimp are hermaphroditic: Young shrimp are male and turn female when they get older. Essentially, until the shrimp get large enough and old enough to turn female, the amount of shrimp spawning is severely limited by the small amount of older female shrimp.

“You need to have a mix of age classes in order to have successful spawning events,” Van Hook said.

Warming water temperatures have had a terrible impact on the shrimp population, even as it may also help the fishery to recover, Van Hook said.

“They are changing into females slightly sooner with slightly warmer water temperatures,” Van Hook said. “There are a lot of factors going on, and if shrimp are growing faster, then it’s possible they could enter into the fishery sooner, but usually it’s at least 3-year-old shrimp that enter into the fishery.”

Despite that news, Libby said he and others remain hopeful about the future of the midcoast shrimping industry.

“You have to be an optimist to be involved in any aspect of this business,” he said.