The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s northern shrimp section voted Wednesday to extend a moratorium on the fishery through the 2018 season, marking the fifth straight year of the closure.
Fishermen and officials in Maine lobbied for a commercial opening with a small total quota of 500 to 2,000 tons, but representatives from New Hampshire and Massachusetts remained unconvinced that the stock could handle a directed fishery.
“Long-term trends in environmental conditions have not been favorable for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine,” reads a commission staff report recommending an extension on the moratorium. “This suggests a need to conserve spawning stock biomass to help compensate for what may continue to be an unfavorable environment.”
Seeing no changes in stock surveys and watching Canadian fishermen fill the gap in the market, Maine fishermen asked for a small opening. About 90 percent of the interstate fishery's catch was hauled by Maine shrimpers prior to the moratorium coming down in 2013.
“The last three or four years, we’ve stayed home to build the stock, and what we’ve got in return is the same thing,” said Gary Libby, a Port Clyde fisherman, of the fishery closures in an interview with the Portland Press Herald. “So as an industry we thought it was worth a risk to give us a small season to allow us to go out.”
The industry and consumers were hopeful for an opening after the commission announced changes to the fishery management plan in August to better allocate quota between the states and enforce gear requirements to avoid catching small shrimp that would likely breed later on.
Fishery managers did approve an ongoing shrimp sampling research program on Wednesday, setting a catch limit of 13 tons for a handful of boats to catch and sell. But according to reports, Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said Maine will not participate because the quota was not large enough to justify the agency’s expenditures.