EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

December 1, 2012

Moratorium possible for New England shrimp season

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A regulatory committee says the Gulf of Maine shrimp population is in such poor shape that the upcoming shrimp-fishing season should be called off this winter.

In its 2012 assessment report, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s shrimp technical committee is recommending that a fishing moratorium be enacted for the upcoming season. If a season is allowed to go forward, the committee says it shouldn’t start until at least half of the shrimp have hatched their eggs, which typically happens around mid-February.

“Ocean temperatures in the western Gulf of Maine shrimp habitat have been increasing in recent years and have reached or approached unprecedented highs in the past three years,” the report reads. “This suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp and indicates the need for protecting spawning biomass.”

The commission’s shrimp-regulating panel, which includes representatives from Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, is scheduled to meet Monday in Portland and decide what the season should look like or whether to even have one. The panel sets the season and the target harvest based on scientific surveys of the highly variable shrimp population.

There’s likely to be a strong turnout of shrimp fishermen, processors and others who would be hurt if the season is shut down or cut back.

Shrimp provide a small but valuable fishery for New England fishermen, especially those who go after cod, haddock and other so-called groundfish.

Last winter, 276 Maine boats harvested the small, sweet shrimp, with another 15 from Massachusetts and 18 from New Hampshire.

Regulators have recommended moratoriums before, and fishermen have weathered short seasons, said Glen Libby, a shrimp fisherman and president of Port Clyde Fresh Catch, a seafood processor in Port Clyde. The last time there was an outright moratorium was in 1978.

Libby’s hopeful the panel that sets the season Monday will allow some sort of fishing this winter.

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