BAR PORT – The final chapter of the Maine shrimp fishery is expected to be decided next month.
The fishery has been closed for almost a decade after the northern shrimp stock collapsed in 2013. A fishing moratorium has since been in place. It is expected to expire at the end of this year and regulators plan to review an updated stock assessment and decide whether the fishery should reopen.
The Northern Shrimp Section of the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission plans to meet virtually from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on December 17 to discuss the update and define specifications for the season of the shrimp 2022.
A shrimp advisory group is planning to meet the previous morning to develop recommendations for the section.
“I hope they open it up,” said James West, a scallop from Sorrento who has fished for shrimp in the past. Even though it was only for a month, from February to March, he just wanted a chance to see what was there.
A few Downeast fishermen have been able to participate in research harvests over the years, but local shrimp have not been on the menu since the moratorium was put in place.
It is not known what caused the shrimp to disappear, but recent research suggests that a squid that entered the Gulf of Maine during a historic heat wave in 2012 may have been a “major player” in the decline of the species.
Anne Richards, a biologist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass., And Margaret Hunter, a biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, studied the collapse and found that it coincided with an influx of longfin squid, a major shrimp predator.
However, the theory can’t really be proven, Hunter said, and researchers are still trying to determine what factors are blocking the rebound of the species. It is believed that the rise in water temperature plays a role.
The cold-water prawns provided a modest, but valuable, income to fishermen in the off-season.