Regulators shutter the shrimp season

PORTLAND — Meeting in Portland Nov. 5, regulators from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Northern Shrimp Section voted to shut down the Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery for 2015. This will be the second consecutive year that the fishery has been closed.

Last December, regulators imposed a moratorium on shrimp fishing during 2014 because a recent stock assessment determined that the shrimp population was at a historically low level. Yesterday’s action was based on the ASMFC’s 2014 Stock Status Report for shrimp conclusion that the “current fishable biomass is the lowest on record” and that the number of juvenile shrimp hatched from 2012 through 2014 “were at all-time lows.”

The Northern Shrimp Technical Committee considers the stock to have collapsed with little prospect of recovery in the immediate future. A 25 metric ton research set-aside quota was also approved to maintain data collection for assessment and management purposes.

“The bleak status report and continuing unfavorable environmental conditions convinced the section to maintain a moratorium in 2015 to protect the remaining spawning biomass and allow as much reproduction to take place as possible,” stated Northern Shrimp Section chair Mike Armstrong of Massachusetts. “The section will work with its industry and technical advisors to ensure the highest quality data is collected through the research set-aside quota.”

In the Gulf of Maine, increasing water temperatures and a decline in phytoplankton abundance (a food source for shrimp) are factors which likely have and will continue to contribute to the poor recruitment in the stock. The increased abundance of northern shrimp predators (spiny dogfish, redfish and silver hake) may also play a role in declining biomass. Northern shrimp stocks in other areas of the world (Greenland, Flemish Cap, Grand Banks) have also seen decreasing trends in abundance and recruitment, indicating that environmental conditions may be impacting northern shrimp across their range.

The section also approved the Public Information Document for Draft Amendment 3 for public comment. The Draft Amendment was initiated to consider establishing a limited-entry program for the northern shrimp fishery for use in the future if and when the stock recovers and the fishery is reopened.

While the fishery is managed through a total allowable catch and defined season, it remains an open access fishery and has experienced significant fluctuations in participation over the last 30 years. This open access, coupled with concern about the health of the stock, led the section to move forward on a limited-entry program to further control effort in the fishery. A limited-entry program will consider the appropriate number of participants in the fishery given biological, environmental and economic considerations. The Draft Amendment will also consider state-by-state allocations and revisit the fishery specifications process.

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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