Board looking to limit access to this state's shrimp fishery

Published on
August 24, 2015

A board of regulators for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has been charged with creating a new proposal that would limit the number of shrimpers that can partake in the Gulf of Maine’s struggling shrimp fishery.

The current timeline has the board submitting their proposal for public hearing at some point next year, with the new rules potentially going into effect by the 2017 shrimping season if they are accepted. Due to low population, the specified Gulf of Maine fishery hasn’t been open to fishermen since 2013.

Shrinking the pool of allowable shrimpers will serve to temper the “gold rush” state that many shrimp fisheries have found themselves in, according to Gary Libby, a shrimper who trawls in Port Clyde and is a member of the shrimp board.

“If we don’t have that gold rush, maybe you don’t have the dips we've had in recent years,’’ Libby told The Boston Globe. ‘‘I'm in favor of stability in the fishery.’’

The Gulf fishery had seen some 400 boats trolling its waters in 1988; in 2006, it saw less than 150. The drop is most likely due to availability and market price, Libby and the Globe posited.

But while Libby can see stability in restricting fishery access, other industry members see only trouble. Controlling the number of shrimpers allowed in a fishery can harm the ambitions of younger fishers looking to establish themselves in the industry. It can also harm fishermen who have come to hold a diverse group of licenses, said Patrick Keliher, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources.

‘‘In fact it would just be another blow to those fishermen who traditionally held a diverse group of licenses, which is the historic nature of Maine’s commercial fisheries,” Keliher said to the Globe.

The proposal is, therefore, “not the solution to controlling the shrimp harvest,’’ Keliher concluded.

If the proposal is to go through, the shrimp fishery would fall in line with other fisheries in the state, like lobster – which has limited access – and the closed fisheries of elver and scallops.

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