ELLSWORTH — The fishery for Northern shrimp is in trouble, but no one seems to know for sure whether the problem is declining stocks of the tiny, tasty highlight of Maine’s midwinter diet or bad science.
About a dozen shrimp fishermen came to a meeting at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School Monday to review proposed changes to the multi-state fishery management plan that controls their industry. Although the sample was small, two things appeared certain: fishermen in Downeast Maine do not want new entrants kept out of the shrimp fishery and they do want the regulators to focus on reducing the catch of small, young shrimp.
Terry Stockwell, director of external affairs for the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), and the agency’s new policy development specialist, Chris Vonderweidt, hosted the meeting and led fishermen through an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) draft plan to change the way the Northern shrimp fishery is managed.
The need for some new approaches was evident from the fact that the regulators have set a limit on total allowable catch (TAC) for shrimp in each of past three years and in each of the past three years fishermen from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine have landed more shrimp than the TAC allowed.
The result, Stockwell said, is that Northern shrimp are overfished.