National Fisherman

Towing in the trenches

Maine's 2012 northern shrimp season is short but not so sweet

By Melissa Wood

There's plenty of squawking coming over the radio as we head out of Portland harbor.

"You can't f—king do it three f—king days a week," says one unidentified voice.

But if you're a trawler taking part in Maine's 2012 northern shrimp season, you do have to do it three days a week. We're fishing under new rules for the 2012 season, which began for trawlers on Jan. 2. In an attempt to make the pitiful quota of 2,000 metric tons last longer, the Maine Department of Marine Resources has restricted fishing to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with each day beginning a half hour before sunrise and ending with gear out of the water promptly at 3 p.m.

Today, Wednesday, Jan. 11, skipper Steve Jordan has something else to be unhappy about. Some of those voices on the radio are coming from boats leaving the harbor before us. As he steams the 65-foot trawler Jamie & Ashley away from the dock a little after 4:30 a.m., he points out three distinct lights in the pitch dark ahead.

"I hate having other people go out before me," Jordan says. "It's always a race."

On the previous fishing day, Monday, Jordan had been the leader of the pack in the sense that he was the highliner that day — which is all that really matters in an open-access fishery like this. It's no surprise that everyone else wants to go to the spot where he had scooped up a hefty 7,000 pounds.

It was beginning to look like a good run for the Jamie & Ashley despite the season's limitations. On the previous Friday, which was the crew's first day out shrimping, they had brought back a decent haul of 5,000 pounds.

But Jordan is not overconfident as we head out. A boat next to him on Monday only brought back seven boxes of shrimp, or 700 pounds.

"It's all luck," says Jordan. "Today could be a role reversal."

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The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that Owen Nichols, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Fisheries Research Program, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

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