There is a real possibility that Gulf of Maine shrimpers, including those who work out of Gloucester, will be forced to the sidelines for the entire 2014 shrimping season because increasingly dire stock assessments indicate the stock was overfished in the previous two seasons.
In a report prepared last week, the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said it will recommend a total “moratorium on fishing in 2014 to maximize spawning potential” of the Gulf of Maine shrimp population.
If accepted by the Northern Shrimp Section at its Dec. 3 meeting in Portland, Maine, that recommendation effectively would close down the entire 2014 Gulf of Maine shrimping season before it even begins.
That surely would incite opposition from many local shrimpers, who already criticize the scope and methodology of the technical committee’s stock assessments.
The Northern Shrimp Section will also hear a recommendation from its scientific advisory panel before setting policy for the upcoming season that would dictate both the fishing schedule and the total allowable catch. The section also has the latitude to adapt its policies even after the season opens, according to Marin Hawk, ASMFC fisheries management plan coordinator.
”The section can always re-visit their decisions during the season,” Hawk said.
Still, it appears unlikely the section would modify its policy to open the season after initially accepting a recommendation for a complete moratorium on the harvesting of shrimp.
The technical committee’s recommendation for the 2014 season is based on data collected in advance of the last three shrimp fishing seasons, which show the region’s shrimp stock is at its lowest level since the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — the multi-state regulator for shrimp and other near-shore species — began keeping records.
”Model results for 2012 and 2011 indicate that this stock has collapsed,” the technical committee said in its assessment. “Three successive years of recruitment failure and continuing warm temperatures indicate poor prospects for the near future, both in terms of the fishery and for stock recovery.”