Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 17 February 2012
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission group that regulates the northern shrimp fleet voted Wednesday to shut down fishing for the season.
It's been a rough year for northern New England's shrimpers, most of whom are also suffering in their other fishery — Northeast groundfish.
Limited quotas in the groundfish trawl fleet, especially since the implementation of catch share management in 2010, have spiked participation in the winter shrimp fishery, which is open access.
Some shrimpers are curious to see what the fishery would look like under limited access. This year, efforts to manage the fleet to stay under the TAC were awkward at best. Trawlers were allowed to go out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from sunup to 3 p.m. For most boats, that's enough time to get in three or maybe four tows.
The cost of operating a boat for a day is about equivalent to two tows, so if your third tow is a dud, then you've only broken even for the day. Luckily, the winter has been mild, so the fleet has not had to risk bad weather in order to make a day's fishing.
In recent weeks, the fleet has been cut back to a 1 p.m. close of day, leaving about six hours to fish. No doubt the commission was trying to give trawlers time on the water without risking a TAC blowout. But there's got to be a better way than shorter days in which to make any kind of profit.
And when tight restrictions still lead to an early shutdown, fishermen have to wonder if that's because there are more shrimp in the water than the management models are predicting. It's a question many of the same fishermen have regarding the recent dreary cod assessment.
In cases like these, sometimes it's best to distract ourselves with bright, shiny objects. So I will leave you with some hot new products from the Miami Boat Show!
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