Durham, NH – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section has set a shortened season for the 2011-2012 northern shrimp fishery because of a smaller population of northern shrimp. A total allowable catch (TAC) of 2,000 metric tons was approved, with the season closing when landings are projected to reach 95 percent of the TAC (1,900 metric tons).

The trawl season will start January 2, 2012, with three landing days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Vessels may only land once a day. The trap season will start February 1, 2012, with a 1,000-pound landing limit per vessel per day. These measures are consistent with the recently approved Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Northern Shrimp.

“Given the favorable stock conditions of the last two years, the Section set relatively long fishing seasons in an effort to accommodate industry’s desire for expanded fishing opportunities,” said Section Chair Doug Grout, Chief of Marine Fisheries for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “Unfortunately, substantial increases in both effort and participation resulted in early season closures and significant overages in both seasons. The resulting impact on the shrimp stock now means we must call for a shortened season and limited fishing opportunities in 2012 to protect the resource.”

The results of the 2011 stock assessment update indicate the northern shrimp stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Additionally, shrimp abundance in the western Gulf of Maine has declined steadily since 2006. The latest survey showed a much lower than normal abundance of large females and juveniles, with the remaining males and females being small for their age. The Fishery Management Plan specifies that if fishing mortality exceeds the limit level and shrimp population is less than the threshold level, the Section must act immediately to reduce fishing mortality.

The Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section recently approved Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Northern Shrimp, which includes new management tools including trip limits, trap limits, and days out of the fishery that will provide the Section the ability to slow catch rates throughout the season. The Amendment also includes provisions for a more timely and comprehensive harvest reporting system, and allows for the initiation of a limited entry program to be pursued through the adaptive management addendum process.

The pace of the fishery will be assessed on January 19, 2012, to evaluate where total landings are, relative to the TAC. If necessary, the Section may adjust the closing date or modify management options (e.g., trip limit, days out) to prevent harvesters from going over the catch limit.

The northern shrimp fishery is jointly regulated by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section. The cooperative management program has been in place since 1972 and is currently managed under Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Northern Shrimp. For more information, contact Mike Waine at ASMFC (202-289-6400; mwaine@asmfc.org) or Doug Grout at the N.H. Fish and Game Department’s Marine Fisheries Division (603-868-1095).

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