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November 19, 2018

Shrimp fishery moratorium extended through 2021

Courtesy / Natalie Maynor. Flickr
Courtesy / Natalie Maynor. Flickr
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission extended a moratorium on commercial fishing of Gulf of Maine shrimp through 2021.

The Northern Shrimp Section of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission extended a moratorium on commercial fishing of Gulf of Maine shrimp through 2021.

According to the commission's news release, the three-year extension was set in response to low shrimp populations and the fact that, even with increasing juvenile populations, it would still take several years for the shrimp to be commercially harvestable.

A 2018 stock assessment update indicates the Gulf of Maine northern shrimp population remains depleted. "Spawning stock biomass," referring to the shrimp that are capable of reproducing, has steadily declined to what the commission said was "extremely low levels." In 2018, it was estimated at 1.3 million pounds, compared with 2017's 1.5 million pounds.

"Recruitment," the number of shrimp surviving to reach spawning status, has also been low in recent years.

The commission said that high levels of natural mortality and low levels of recruitment are hindering recovery of the stock. Natural mortality is caused by predation and unfavorable trends in environmental conditions due to increasing ocean temperatures.

"With ocean temperatures predicted to continue to rise, this suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine," the release says.

Fishing for shrimp has been banned for the past five years, and yet the stock has not improved, the release says.

At the section's meeting, Katie Drew, a scientist with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, told the panel of regulators — from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts — there was virtually no chance the shrimp would bounce back from depleted levels before 2022 and, in fact, might never recover, Maine Public reported. Patrick Keliher, the Commissioner of Maine's Department of Marine Resources, voted against the three-year moratorium. He said fishermen are seeing signs of a rebound in northern shrimp-abundance.

After the commission implemented last year's moratorium, Keliher told the Bangor Daily News that a catch limit of fewer than 500,000 pounds would have done "no harm" to the fishery while providing economic opportunity to fishermen.

The moratorium on shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Maine began at the end of 2013, after a steady decline in catches since 2006 and status reports showing the shrimp populations being the lowest on record in 2012 and 2013, when the catch was valued at $1 million, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

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