You have probably heard by now that there is no shrimp fishery this 2013-2014 season. This did not come as too much of a surprise: there have been early closures and reduced allowable catch limits put on the shrimp fishery since 2010. In 2012 Maine shrimpers hauled in 255 metric tons (mt) of shrimp compared to landings between 2,200 mt and 5,600 mt from 2005-2012. 1969 marked the peak of the fishery with nearly 11,000 mt of shrimp landed. (Table 1a, ASMFC report)
“Given the overwhelming evidence of recruitment failure and stock collapse, and continuing unfavorable environmental conditions, the Section felt it was necessary to close the 2014 fishery to protect the remaining spawning biomass and allow as much hatch to take place as possible,” stated Northern Shrimp Section Chair Terry Stockwell of Maine. “When environmental conditions are poor, the ability of the stock to withstand fishing pressure is reduced. With the stock at all time lows and only failed year classes to come, there is even greater loss of resilience for this stock.”
- From ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section Establishes Moratorium for 2014 Fishing Season
If you want to read the 86-page report compiled by the Atlantic State's Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)--the regulatory body that jointly manages the Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts shrimp fishery--I would suggest a strong cup of coffee first (it is pretty technical). Alternatively, check out their Executive Summary on page 7.
What does this mean for Maine shrimp fishermen? The fishery has historically supported between 150-250 trawlers and trappers (the two methods for catching shrimp), and in 2013 there were around 160 Maine shrimp fishery licenses (table 6, ASMFC report). Although nearly 84 percent of shrimpers in Maine are also lobstermen, shrimping can be a significant supplement to their income, with some fishermen making $2,000 a day shrimping. This is yet another lost fishing opportunity that makes fishermen even more reliant on the lobster fishery for all of their income. One of our science advisors, Robert Steneck, wrote a compelling article about this issue in 2011 (this is a must-read).
Check out this article in the Working Waterfront to learn more about the shrimp fishery and the link between decreases in the shrimp population and increased water temperatures. You can also read more about northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis), their life history, and the history of their management on the ASMFC website.
Have you been impacted by the closure of the shrimp fishery? What do you think about the ASMFC's descision to close the fishery? Post your thoughts in the comment section!