State of Maine Department of Marine Resources
Moratorium on Northern Shrimp Commercial Fishing Maintained for 2018 Season
Portland, ME – In response to the depleted condition of the northern shrimp resource, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section extended the moratorium on commercial fishing for the 2018 fishing season. The Section also approved a 13.3 metric ton (mt) research set aside (RSA) and tasked the Technical Committee to develop the RSA program design and report back to the Section for final approval by December 14.
Industry members continued to express concern about the economic impacts of the fishery closure, especially in light of a lack of positive signals in terms of stock rebuilding. Based on these concerns, the Section agreed to include in future discussions the possibility of opening a directed fishery if improvements in stock condition (e.g., strong recruitment or biomass indices) are not realized.
The 2017 Stock Status Report for Gulf of Maine (GOM) Northern Shrimp indicates abundance and biomass indices for 2012–2017 are the lowest on record of the 34 year time series, with 2017 being the lowest observed. Recruitment since 2011 has been poor and includes the four smallest year classes on record. The recruitment index in 2017 (2016 year class) was the second lowest observed. Current harvestable biomass is mainly comprised of females from the weak 2013 year class and some small, early-maturing females from the below-average 2015 year class.
Recruitment of northern shrimp is related to both spawning biomass and ocean temperatures, with higher spawning biomass and colder temperatures producing stronger recruitment. Ocean temperatures in western Gulf of Maine shrimp habitat have increased over the past decade and reached unprecedented highs within the past several years. While 2014 and 2015 temperatures were cooler, 2016 and 2017 temperatures were again high, and temperature is predicted to continue rising as a result of climate change. This suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp and the need for strong conservation efforts to help restore and maintain the stock. The Northern Shrimp Technical Committee considers the stock to be in poor condition with limited prospects for the near future.