Possible Moratorium on Northern Shrimp Season

From the Bangor Daily News:

Maine shrimp industry in such dire straits season might be called off this year

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s shrimp boats traditionally take to the waters of the Gulf of Maine the first week of December. But not this year. And not last year.

In fact, the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recommends that there not be a shrimp season at all this year.

Concern about depleted stocks and previous years of overfishing pushed the start of the 2011-12 shrimping season back from December to January 3, 2012, for trawlers, who were limited to fishing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and back to Feb. 1, 2012, for trappers, limited to landings of 1,000 pounds a day.

Regulatory officials also pulled the plug early on the New England shrimp fishery last season, ending it on Feb. 17, 2012, claiming that shrimpers had already exceeded the catch limit of 4.9 million metric tons by as many as 1 million metric tons. That closure left trawlers with a 21-day season and trappers with a 17-day season.

In a recent 81-page analysis released Nov. 21, the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee recommends a moratorium on shrimp fishing for 2013.

“Given the current condition of the resource (overfished and overfishing occurring) and poor prospects for the near future, the NSTC recommends that the Section implement a moratorium on fishing in 2013,” the report says. “If a fishery is allowed in 2013, the NSTC recommends a highly conservative approach … [including] starting the season after at least 50 percent of shrimp have hatched their brood. In recent years the midpoint of the hatch has been around Feb. 15.

“The NSTC bases its recommendations to the Section on its assessment of current stock status, the biology of the species, and the stated management goal of protecting and maintaining the stock at levels that will support a viable fishery on a sustainable resource. … Short-term commercial prospects for the 2013 fishing season are very poor given the low abundance of all stages of shrimp in the 2012 survey and the relatively small size of females in the 2011 and 2012 surveys.”

Those recommendations will be discussed during a daylong, two-session meeting in Portland on Monday, Dec. 3, at the downtown Holiday Inn by the Bay convention center. The 9 a.m. session involves the Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel and will include a review of the 2011-12 season status report by the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee and its moratorium recommendation. The 1 p.m. afternoon session will involve the Northern Shrimp Section, which includes one representative each from Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

That three-member group will decide at that meeting what the 2012-13 shrimp season will look like — if there is one — after analyzing the technical committee’s report and recommendations from an industry advisory panel. Read more…

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