ARLINGTON, Va. — Noting that the northern shrimp population in the Gulf of Maine remains depleted, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section has extended through 2024 the moratorium on commercial and recreational fishing for northern shrimp.

The 2021 summer survey indices of abundance, biomass and recruitment were at time-series lows since this data began to be collected in 1984. Predation and other environmental factors, such as warming water temperatures, continue to impact the ability of the resource to rebuild, the Northern Shrimp Section said in a news release Dec. 17.

At the section meeting, several industry members voiced support for reopening a limited commercial fishery or possibly a personal use fishery in order to aid in the collection of data to evaluate the stock status, as well as provide socioeconomic benefits to local communities.

The section did not support opening a commercial fishery because of the negative impact most likely would have on the stock. However, the section did consider opening a small recreational fishery consisting of a two-week season, three-trap limit per person, and a 25-pound possession limit. Ultimately, the section did not pursue this management option out of concerns about stock status, equitable access to the resource, the difficulty of preventing the illegal sale of shrimp, controlling effort, and monitoring harvest levels.

Given the continued poor condition of the resource, the extremely low likelihood of being able to fish sustainably, and the value of maximizing spawning potential to rebuild the stock if environmental conditions improve, the section determined that a continuation of the moratorium was the best course of action. This decision aligns with the primary management objective within the Northern Shrimp Fishery Management Plan that requires the section to protect and maintain the stock at sustainable levels that support a viable fishery.

An additional FMP objective requires the section to minimize the adverse impacts the shrimp fishery may have on other natural resources, including other commercially important fish that prey on northern shrimp.

The section received a work group progress update on evaluating management strategies for northern shrimp given changes in species abundance. The Ssection agreed that this work should be continued with particular focus on further developing a management option for recreational fishing that allows for the personal consumption of harvested shrimp.

The work group was also directed to explore how the northern shrimp fishery would be managed if the commission relinquished control of the fishery management plan. Since future funding for the summer shrimp survey remains uncertain, the section also tasked the work group with discussing options for maintaining stock assessment updates without the data that this survey provides.

The work group will continue to discuss these topics in consultation with representatives from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Commission’s Interstate Fisheries Management Program Policy Board, the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee, and the Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel.

Finally, the section elected Maine state Sen. David Miramant, D-Knox, as section vice-chair. Section members thanked Raymond Kane of Massachusetts for his two years of service as chair; Ritchie White of New Hampshire is the incoming chair.

The 2021 Stock Assessment Update is available at asmfc.org/uploads/file/61bd06a5NShrimpAssessmentUpdateReport_2021.pdf. For more information, contact Dustin Colson Leaning, fishery management coordinator, at dleaning@asmfc.org.