ELLSWORTH — For the third year in a row, there will be no fishery for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine.
Meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., Monday afternoon, the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted unanimously to extend the existing moratorium on shrimp fishing through 2016. The vote came in response to recommendations from the ASMFC Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel, which met Monday morning.
The panel based its recommendations on a Nov. 23 report on the status of the northern shrimp resource.
According to the status report, measures of both the shrimp abundance and biomass for the period 2012 through 2015 “were the lowest on record” in the 32-year history of the study. Recruitment — the number of shrimp growing sufficiently to enter the fishery — for the 2010 through 2014 year classes “was also well below average and included the three smallest year classes on record.” As a result, the size of the fishable stock for the years from 2013 through 2015 “is the lowest on record.”
Although recruitment improved “slightly” for the 2013 year class, recruitment in the 2014 year class “dropped to the lowest ever during the history of shrimp surveys.”
Commercial landings — regulated by landings quotas set by the ASMFC — reflect the decline in the stock.
During the 2012 season (which began in 2011), Maine fishermen landed 2,219 metric tons of shrimp. The following season, the last during which any fishing was allowed, Maine harvesters landed some 289 metric tons of shrimp.
The landed value of the shrimp fishery, including a small amount of shrimp landed in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, fell from approximately $10.6 million in 2011 to some $1.4 million in 2013.
According to the scientists, the shrimp population “continues to meet the criteria defining a collapsed stock.”
The reason for the collapse appears to be related both to the declining size of the shrimp spawning stock and to rising ocean temperatures that reduce recruitment of juvenile shrimp.
According to a number of reports, the scientists said, “ocean temperatures in western Gulf of Maine shrimp habitat have increased over the past decade and reached unprecedented highs in the past several years.”
While 2014 and 2015 temperatures were cooler, the report said, “temperatures are predicted to continue rising as a result of climate change. This suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp and the need for strong conservation efforts to help restore the stock.”