Fishery managers will be considering a “significantly reduced harvest limit” for the shrimp fishery’s upcoming 2011/2012 season.

At its Oct. 18 meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section approved Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Northern Shrimp and recommended its full adoption by the ASMFC.

According to a press release issued after that meeting, the section was presented with the preliminary results of the northern shrimp stock assessment, which found that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring.

According to the assessment, 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 release said.

There were significant over-harvests in both the 2009/2010 (28 percent above harvest limit) and 2010/2011 (48 percent above harvest limit) fishing seasons.

For the 2009-2010 season, the proposed 180-day season was cut short by 24 days, to 156 days, due to the industry exceeding the section’s recommended landings cap for that year by 14 percent, and due to concerns about small shrimp.

The preliminary landings for 2010 of 5,600 metric tons was more than double the landings observed in 2009.

For the 2010-2011 season, the season began on Dec. 1, 2010, and was originally scheduled to run for 136 days, until April 15. The section set a landings cap of 4,000 metric tons. But by mid-February 2011, a preliminary tally of shrimp landings had already reached 4,192 metric tons.

The 2011 fishery then closed 46 days early.

For the upcoming 2011-2012 season, the ASMFC’s Technical Committee has recommended a harvest limit of approximately 1,800 metric tons.

The Northern Shrimp Section and the Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel will be meeting on Oct. 28 to set the specifications for the coming season. Amendment 2 includes a suite of new management tools designed to provide the section the ability to slow catch rates throughout the season. The tools include trip limits, trap limits and days out of the fishery.

At an ASMFC hearing on Amendment 2 that was held in Ellsworth in September, Terry Stockwell – the Department of Marine Resources’ director of external affairs and Maine’s representative on the ASMFC – said the section’s intention is to “mix and match” management options to provide flexibility to the fishery. He said the section aims to develop management tools designed to spread the catch throughout the season, as well as an improved catch reporting system.

For more information, contact Michael Waine, fishery management plan coordinator, at 703-842-0740 or email mwaine@asmfc.org.