Canceling of Maine shrimp season a heavy blow

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to close the Gulf of Maine to shrimping after a harvest last winter that was the smallest since the last shutdown of the fishery, in 1978.

"We are screwed," said Mel Cushman of Port Clyde, whose husband, Randy Cushman, has been fishing for shrimp and groundfish for more than 30 years. "Shrimping is half of our (yearly) income. We don't know what we are going to do."

North Atlantic shrimp provide a small but valuable fishery for New England fishermen, with several hundred boats going after them using nets and traps. About 85 percent to 90 percent of the annual harvest in the Gulf of Maine is typically caught by Maine boats.

This summer, a survey indicated that the northern shrimp stock was at its lowest level since the annual trawl survey began in 1984. A report released Nov. 21 by the fisheries commission's Northern Shrimp Technical Committee concluded that the stock has collapsed.

The report recommended a moratorium on shrimping in 2014 to maximize the species' spawning potential. It attributed the collapse in part to warming ocean temperatures.

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