Maine shrimp fishery to remain closed through 2017
A moratorium on commercial shrimp fishing in Maine will continue for the fifth consecutive year after a vote on Thursday, 10 November by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Stocks of Maine shrimp crashed in 2013 despite several years of increasingly more drastic fishing restrictions, and commercial fishing for the species has been banned in Maine waters since that year, with the fishery’s status labeled as “critically poor,” according to the latest stock assessment report. The population decline and bleak expectations for its recovery are blamed on rising ocean temperatures.
“Ocean temperatures in western [Gulf of Maine] shrimp habitat have increased over the past decade and reached unprecedented highs within the past several years,” according to a statement from the commission. “This suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp and the need for strong conservation efforts to help restore and maintain a fishable stock.”
The commission did approve the harvest of small amounts of Maine shrimp for a scientific survey, according to the Bangor Daily News. It set a limit of 53 metric tons, or about 117,000 pounds – up from a 68,000-pound limit for the scientific catch set for 2016.
The 53-ton limit is just a sliver of the former totals of Maine shrimp harvested in the years before its population crashed. In its peak year, 1996, Maine’s shrimp industry landed 18 million pounds of shrimp valued at nearly USD 13 million. Even as recently as 2011, the harvest was more than 10 million pounds and had a total value of USD 7.6 million.
The small, pinkish, sweet-tasting shrimp were a popular winter seafood item in New England and beyond when the fishery was open, according to the Portland Press Herald. Canada and Greenland fishermen still fish for Maine shrimp but numbers have fallen there, too, the Press Herald reported.