BAR HARBOR — The latest chapter of Maine’s shrimp fishery is expected to be decided next month.
The fishery has been closed for nearly a decade after a collapse of the northern shrimp’s stock in 2013. A moratorium on the fishery has been in place ever since. It is set to expire at the end of this year and regulators plan to review an updated stock assessment and decide if the fishery should reopen.
The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section plans to meet virtually from 9-11 a.m. on Dec. 17 to discuss the update and set the specifications for the 2022 shrimp season.
An advisory shrimp panel plans to meet the morning before to develop recommendations for the section to consider.
“I hope they do open it,” said James West, a scalloper from Sorrento who shrimped in the past. Even if it was only for a month, from February to March, he just wanted a chance to see what was out there.
A few Downeast fishermen have been able to participate in research harvests over the years, but local shrimp has been off the menu ever since the moratorium was put in place.
It is unclear what caused the shrimps’ demise, but recent research suggests that a squid that rode into the Gulf of Maine on a historic heatwave in 2012 may have been a “major player” in the species’ downturn.
Anne Richards, a biologist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass., and Margaret Hunter, a biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, studied the collapse and found that it coincided with an influx of longfin squid, a major shrimp predator.
The theory can’t really be proven though, Hunter said, and researchers are still trying to figure out what factors are blocking the rebound of the species. Rising water temperatures are believed to play a part.
The cold-water-loving shrimp supplied a modest, but valued, income for fishermen during the offseason.