Limited Entry Discussed for Shrimp Fishery
by Dennis Damon
Shrimp fishermen, buyers, pro- cessors and industry representatives from Stonington to Saco met on October 14th with Commissioner George Lapointe and others in Hallowell to discuss limited entry in the shrimp fishery. The topic has been raised for years with the same reaction, “We don’t want to talk about it!” This latest attempt to discuss this controversial management measure seemed different.
Rather than simply denying limited entry as a non-starter and refusing to discuss it, most in attendance seemed to agree that the possibility of overfishing shrimp does exist. They also agreed those interested in maintaining the fishery should acknowledge that fact and discuss how to best prevent it from happening. With that in mind even those most adamantly opposed to limited entry seemed willing to discuss it, if not embrace it, as a possible management tool.
Commissioner Lapointe called the meeting, billed as an informal discussion about the shrimp fishery, to get all sides together in the same place to talk about the future of Northern Shrimp in the Gulf of Maine. The ’09-’10 shrimp season saw 230 boats reporting shrimp landings. Of those boats, 16 were from Massachusetts, 5 were from New Hampshire and 209 were from Maine. Historically, the highest effort occurred when just shy of 500 boats fished for shrimp one year.
Last season a little less than half of those boats, 99, caught shrimp by trapping rather than by dragging. Trapping efforts landed 21% of the total catch last year compared to 11% of the catch in 2001 when 288 boats landed shrimp. There seems to be a growing trend toward trapping rather than dragging for shrimp. That catching method is further encouraged by a report that buyers are willing to pay more for the larger, non-egg bearing trapped shrimp. Although there was no conclusive or final decision made at the October 14th meeting, there was strong agreement that something had to be done to protect the shrimp fishery and to keep it sustainable. What actions will work best remains the topic for continuing discussion.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel (AP) will meet in Portland, Maine at the Eastland Hotel at 10:00AM on October 21st to discuss its findings and recommendations which will be presented to the ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section when it meets to set the dates for the upcoming season on November 3rd at 1:00PM at the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Both meetings are open to the public.
Dennis Damon is the Senate Chair of the Marine Resources Committee in the Maine Legislature, a commissioner at ASMFC and a member of the Northern Shrimp Section. He resides in Trenton, Maine.