Answers on shrimp limits a step closer

ELLSWORTH — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has taken the next step toward deciding whether to set a limit on who can fish for shrimp in the Gulf of Maine if and when the stock recovers and the fishery is reopened.

Earlier this month, the commission’s Northern Shrimp Section approved the public information document for the next update of the fishery management plan for northern shrimp, known as Draft Amendment 3.

The information document outlines the alternative management provisions contained in the draft amendment and asks for public comment. The commission wants input from the fishing industry and scientists on the question “How would you like the northern shrimp fishery to be managed in the future?”

The answers to that question could determine which fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will be able to go shrimping in the future.

Concern about the health of the shrimp stock, coupled with the fishing pressure generated by open access fishing, led the section to propose establishing a limited entry program to further control effort in the fishery.

As the first step in the commission’s amendment process, the information document is intended to gather information concerning northern shrimp and provide an opportunity for the public to identify and comment on major issues relative to the management of this species.

Among the most pressing issues are how many boats the fishery can sustain; how it will be determined which boats qualify for the fishery; whether fishermen should be able to transfer the right to fish for shrimp from one boat to another; and how the limited fishery should be allocated among fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Historically, Maine fishermen have landed about 91 percent of the northern shrimp catch each year.

The decline in the northern shrimp resource is reflected in the stark drop in shrimp landings over the past several years.

During the 1996 fishing season, Maine fishermen landed 8,100 metric tons of shrimp. Total landings were a little more than 9,500 metric tons.

In the 2013 season – fishing was suspended for 2014 and 2015 – Maine landings were 278.7 metric tons of northern shrimp, and total landings were just 334.5 metric tons.

A tentative schedule for the completion of Amendment 3 calls for the Northern Shrimp Management Board to review public comment over the summer and to put a final proposal out for review sometime in the fall. It is anticipated that the section will approve a final Amendment 3 sometime in the winter of 2016.

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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