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News Feature

State of Maine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 29, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, November 29, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, November 29, 2018
Shrimp season closed through 2021
Plus, herring days revised, Deer Isle lobsterman wins scallop lottery

by Anne Berleant

The Gulf of Maine will remain closed to commercial northern shrimp fishing through 2021, the Department of Marine Resources announced November 16.

“This three-year moratorium was set in response to the low levels of biomass and recruitment and the fact that, should recruitment improve, it would take several years for those shrimp to be commercially harvestable,” according to a DMR press release.

The commercial northern shrimp fishery closed in 2014 because of a low shrimp spawning stock biomass, and has yet to reopen.

Death by predators has contributed to a high natural mortality rate for northern shrimp in the past 10 years, while environmental conditions have not been favorable.

“With ocean temperatures predicted to continue to rise, this suggests an increasingly inhospitable environment for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine,” reads the DMR press release.

Spawning stock biomass is estimated to be lower this year, at 1.3 million pounds, than in 2017, which stood at 1.5 million pounds, despite the four-year closure. Recruitment is estimated at two billion shrimp, also considered low by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which manages the fishery. The DMR enacts rules to abide by ASMFC decisions.

Industry members had advocated that the commercial fishery be re-opened in order to evaluate the stock status and “provide economic benefits to local fishermen,” and Maine DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher opposed the closure at the ASMFC vote.

Two addendums to the ASMFC decision were approved, however. The first gives states the authority to allocate their state-specific quota between gear types should the fishery reopen. The second establishes a working group to review the existing Gulf of Maine Summer Northern Shrimp Survey and evaluate ways to improve the reliability and efficiency of the survey, including greater commercial industry involvement in the collection of data.

Herring, scallop

The ASMFC’s Atlantic Herring Management Board also revised control measures in place for the 2018 Area 1A fishery for trimester 3, October 1 to December 31, to allow seven consecutive landing days—until 92 percent of the area’s sub-annual catch limit is projected to be harvested.

Herring limits for Area 1A, the in-shore area across Western and Eastern Maine, were lowered earlier this fall from the original 31,789 metric ton limit (about 70 million pounds) for 2018 to 27,743 metric tons, or just over 61 million pounds in reaction to a sharp drop in Atlantic herring landings in Maine. Vessels may land once every 24 hour period.

In other fishing news, Deer Isle lobsterman Johnathon Oliver was awarded one of four scallop dragger licenses through a random lottery, designed to open the scallop fishery up to new fishermen. Two individuals are awarded eligibility for a drag license for every three individuals who did not renew their license in the previous calendar year.

The entry-exit ratio for dive licenses is 1:1 but no dive licenses were retired in 2017.

Finally, the DMR is auctioning off 523 lobster traps in 10 lots of 50 and one lot of 23. Trap conditions range from poor to excellent and most lots do not include buoys and lines. Miscellaneous buoys and lines are also being auctioned, however. Bidding ends on December 9, and is online at govdeals.com (search for “Maine” to access bidding), or by email at harold.e.jones@maine.gov.