PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - If you like fresh Maine shrimp, you'll likely to find fewer of them in the stores this winter. And people who make their living from shrimp will have a lot less money in their pockets.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates the shrimp fishing season in the Gulf of Maine, today voted to have a very limited shrimp season -- because they say there simply aren't enough shrimp.
Regulators from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts met in Portland and approved a total catch of just 625 metric tons. That's about 1.35 million pounds. Last year's shrimp catch was more than 2,400 metric tons. Scientists studying shrimp say warm ocean water and over-fishing have decimated shrimp population.
They say that testing this summer showed few adult shrimp and few young or juvenile shrimp. That panel of scientists wanted a total moratorium for this season, which would have meant no fishing at all. But regulators said they wanted to allow some level of fishing, to keep fishermen and processors working, if only in a limited way.
Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher recommended a 700 metric ton quota, but panel members from the other two states did not support that level of fishing.
They voted to allow trawlers to start fishing January 23, but limited their fishing to just two days per week. Shrimp trappers, who work primarily in the midcoast area, are allotted 13% of the quota, and will start fishing February 1.
The dramatically reduced level of fishing will mean less work and less income for fishermen, most of whom are in Maine. Ninety percent of Gulf of Maine shrimp are landed in maine. The cut in the harvest will also have a significant impact on shrimp processors.
The owner of Nova Seafoods in Portland says he expects the larger companies that use automated production lines to process shrimp won't even get into the business this winter, because of the small catch. He says processors who pick shrimp for the fresh market and for regional restaurants will likely do most of the work, along with shrimp peddlers who sell from trucks beside the road.
Shrimp processors have complained for several years that inconsistent quotas and seasons have hurt their ability to market Maine shrimp to national or international customers, because of the undependable supply.