Shrimp are on the agenda, but will any be on the plate?

PORTLAND — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section will meet Wednesday, Nov. 5, in Portland to consider approval of the Public Information Document (PID) for Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Northern Shrimp for public comment.

Perhaps more important, at least in the short term, the section also will review the most recent reports on the status of northern shrimp stock and set specifications for the 2015 fishing season — if there even is one.

Last year, the shrimp stock was in such desperate shape that the section determined there should be no 2014 shrimp season.

In 2013, the last year in which there was a shrimp fishery, Maine boats landed just over 563,000 pounds of shrimp worth some $1 million — about $1.79 per pound. In 1996, Maine fishermen landed almost 18 million pounds of shrimp worth just under $13 million — about 72 cents per pound at the dock.

Whatever the regulators decide about this winter’s fishing, the proposals contained in Amendment 3 will have a much greater long-term impact on the shrimp fishery.

The latest amendment looks at whether ASMFC should establish a limited entry program for the northern shrimp fishery. Currently, the fishery is managed by setting a total allowable catch during a defined season, but it remains open to any licensed fisherman.

Over the past 30 years, the fishery has experienced significant fluctuations in participation. The number of vessels participating in the fishery in recent years has varied from a high of 347 in 1996 to a low of 144 in 2006. In 2013, the most recent year that there was a fishery, 198 vessels fished for shrimp — 122 from Maine, 16 from Massachusetts and 14 from New Hampshire. Of the 122 vessels from Maine, 46 were trapping shrimp in pots similar to lobster traps. The rest were trawling for shrimp using large nets.

Open access and a continuing concern about the condition of the stock, led the section to move forward on establishing a limited entry program to further control effort in the fishery. The program will consider the appropriate number of participants in the fishery given biological, environmental and economic considerations.

The PID is aimed at soliciting public input on the shrimp fishery and will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on issues relating to the management of the species with an emphasis on limited entry, state-by-state allocations of any TAC and multi-year specifications. If approved, the PID will be released for public comment. Public hearings will be held in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

In 2013, the Northern Shrimp Section approved a moratorium for the 2014 northern shrimp fishing season. The stock is believed to be at record low levels and has experienced a near total reproductive failure over the past three years.

The Northern Shrimp Technical Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, Oct. 22, to update the northern shrimp stock status. Its findings will form the basis of the section’s determinations for the 2015 season.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, the Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel will meet to formulate its recommendations on both the PID and the 2015 season. The section will then meet the following day. Both meetings will take place at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

For more information, contact Marin Hawk, ASMFC fishery management plan coordinator, at [email protected] or (703) 842-0740.

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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