BAR HARBOR — A decision on whether there will be a Northern shrimp fishery this winter is due this week.
On Thursday, Nov. 10, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section and Advisory Panel was set to meet in Portsmouth, N.H., to review the latest stock status report and recommendations from the panel’s technical committee about what the 2017 shrimp fishery should look like.
Last month, the technical committee released a report incorporating its recommendations for the 2016-2017 season. Based on the latest scientific data, the recommendation was to keep the shrimp boats in port and the trawl nets and traps out of the water for another year.
“Given the continued poor condition of the resource and poor prospects for the near future,” the committee recommended “that the Northern Shrimp Section extend the moratorium on fishing through 2017.”
Back in 1996, Maine fishermen landed nearly 18 million pounds of shrimp worth some $12.9 million. By 2012, landings of shrimp in Maine had fallen to slightly more than 4.8 million pounds, worth some $4.6 million.
Even at that lower number, the lack of a shrimp season takes a bite out of winter fishing incomes.
During the 2012 season, 295 boats from Maine, 164 trawlers and 132 trappers fished for shrimp. The next season, only 182 Maine boats were active.
Over the past three seasons, only a handful of boats, hired to conduct sampling activities for the technical committee, were allowed to fish and sell their landings – about 25,000 pounds last winter.
While there are certainly fishermen who would like to rig over their boats and chase shrimp this winter, the technical committee report said that “short-term commercial prospects for the 2017 fishing season are very poor.” The reason for that assessment is that the population of harvestable shrimp remains extremely low.
A number of factors contributed to the problem.
As other fisheries have rebounded in the Gulf of Maine, so has predation of shrimp eggs and juvenile shrimp.
Water temperature was another issue. In the Gulf of Maine, temperatures have been “at or near record highs” for several years. Though cooler in 2014 and 2015, the water temperature was high again this year.