ELLSWORTH — Maine’s shrimp fishermen knew the news wouldn’t be good when regulators finally set the dates and landings limit for the upcoming 2012 fishing season.
The Northern Shrimp Section of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) dropped both shoes at its meeting Friday afternoon in Portsmouth, N.H.
Responding to dire predictions about the shrimp resource from scientists on its Technical Committee, the section set a harvest limit of 2,000 metric tons (about 4.4 million pounds) for the upcoming season. That is half the limit that was set for the 2010-2011 season and nearly 9 million pounds of shrimp less than were actually landed for the season. The season will close when landings are projected to have reached 95 percent of the limit — 1,900 metric tons or about 4.2 million pounds.
“Four million pounds isn’t much of a fishery,” Vincent Balzano, a fisherman who serves as an industry adviser to the Northern Shrimp Section, said this week. “They’re trying to make the impossible work. It’s not good.”
With the newest stock assessment showing the shrimp resource to be at its lowest ebb since 2003, the fishing season won’t open until next Jan. 2 for trawlers. Shrimp trappers will have to wait until Feb. 1.
Initially, trawlers will be allowed to fish just three days each week — Monday, Thursday and Friday — and trappers will be subject to a daily landings limit of 1,000 pounds, but those days and limits could change, depending on how the fishing goes.
Terry Stockwell, section chairman and Department of Marine Resources (DMR) deputy commissioner for external affairs, said the section will meet regularly to review landings data from mandatory weekly reports by fishermen and from dockside monitors.
“It’s the intent of the section to review the rate of catch, the number of participants and CPUE (catch per unit of effort) to ensure that there will be a trap season,” Stockwell said. “I suspect we’ll be meeting frequently.”
Last year, the section set a 136-day fishing season beginning Dec. 1, 2010, and ending April 15, 2011.