Long odds for winter shrimp fishery

PORTLAND — Scientists gathered at a downtown hotel last week for a three-day “peer review” of the latest Northern Shrimp Benchmark Stock Assessment from by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The assessment evaluates the condition of the Gulf of Maine northern shrimp resource and provides regulators with the information they need to manage the fishery.

The sessions were mostly open to the public but, as of Tuesday morning, the ASMFC had yet to publish a summary of the proceedings.

Whatever happened, the odds are against the fisheries managers allowing any shrimp fishing this coming winter.

Last year’s stock report showed that stock abundance and biomass between 2012 and 2017 were the lowest on record during the 34 years records have been kept. The 2017 numbers were the lowest ever observed.

Recruitment — the number of animals entering the fishery — has been poor since 2011 and includes the four smallest year classes on record.

There is little to suggest those numbers are likely to improve.

Recruitment of northern shrimp is related to both spawning biomass and ocean temperatures, with higher spawning biomass and colder temperatures producing stronger recruitment.

Over the past decade, ocean temperatures in the western Gulf of Maine, traditional shrimp fisheries, have increased and reached what scientists have described as “unprecedented highs.”

The ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section will meet later this year to determine whether there will be any winter fishery and, if so, how much shrimp Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts fishermen will be allowed to harvest.


Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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