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November 12, 2013

Data due for setting shrimp limits

Gulf of Maine shrimpers, including those working out of Gloucester, could learn as early as next week the details on the stock assessment for the upcoming 2013-14 season, with the most recent data still indicating it could be one of the worst seasons in recorded history.

Marin Hawk of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said Tuesday that the data collected to date reflect continuing recruitment failures that appear to have left the stock at its lowest numbers since the organization began keeping records in 1984.

”We are finishing up the stock assessment update,” Hawk said. “It should be finalized next week.”

The Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — the multistate body that manages shrimp and other near-shore species — is scheduled to meet Dec. 3 in Portland, Maine, to discuss recommendations for the 2013-14 fishing season. Those will include the stock assessment and recommendations on catch quota and the fishing schedule for the season.

The Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery, according to the initial data, is being plagued by a double-dose of bad news: The shrimp numbers are way down, and the shrimp found in the assessment were not where they normally live.

Local shrimpers have disputed both the methodology and results of ASMFC’s annual assessment, saying it is flawed by the insistence of the body’s scientists to conduct the assessment in the same places each year, despite evidence the stocks are moving.

While the projection for the upcoming season is dire, it’s hard to imagine a northern shrimp season worse than last year, when Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire shrimpers caught only 662,000 pounds for the lowest harvest since the fishery was closed altogether.

Faced with the projection of ever-dwindling stocks, regulators limited the entire catch last year to 1.4 million pounds and radically shortened the harvesting season — at one point restricting shrimping to two days a week.

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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