Barring a miracle, the shrimp fishery for the Gulf of Maine will see year 3 of its moratorium. Stock assessments going back to 2012 show a grim future for the fishery. There are many factors that have played into the current state of the shrimp fishery, including previous overfishing as well as the warming water in the Gulf of Maine. These shrimp need colder water to thrive and may have something to do with the fewer females found during studies.
Considering the current state of the shrimp fishery, if vessels are allowed to catch any at all in the future, it will most likely be under a more restrictive policy. The last season of record was 2013, which saw most of the landing of shrimp from vessels from Maine. The meeting on November 10 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire will have the shrimp advisory panel report on the latest data for the northern shrimp and decide if there will be a 2016 season. The report is not yet finalized and there is always a chance that a short season could be implemented, but many in the industry believe that there will be no shrimping in the Gulf of Maine this year.
To me it is almost like an end of an era, my family got involved in the winter shrimp fishery when I was very young. For a large part of my life, having fresh northern shrimp was a sign of winter, a staple of every fish company’s Christmas party. All of our freezers would have bags of these decapods that we would thaw and cook throughout the year. Gulf of Maine shrimp was always a roller-coaster with both lean years and abundant years, but for the most part, the 21st century has not been kind. But now it sounds like, barring a miracle, the industry may be gone. Even with moratoriums, if the actual habitat has changed and the water is too warm in the Gulf of Maine for these shrimp, they will not be coming back.
Sources: Gloucester Daily Times/Ellsworth American
Update: The single vessel from Massachusetts allowed to harvest Northern shrimp is stationed here in Gloucester. According to the Gloucester Daily Times Captain Jurek of the MYSTIC LADY is part of the 8-week Gulf of Maine shrimp sampling program. Vessels in the program are allowed to catch and sell at auction, up to 1200 pounds of these succulent shrimp per week. Locals, including the Mayor, have been lining up with their buckets and cash to get a taste of the shrimp, albeit a small taste. With landings falling short of the trip quota, demand is high and supply is very low. As of right now the future looks bleak as this shrimp species needs colder water to thrive and reproduce.