SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — This winter’s catch rate, fishery landings limit and other topics are expected to be among the items discussed when Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery regulators meet this week at a local hotel.
Officials with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission are expected to meet at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Marriott at Sable Oaks, near the Maine Mall. The meeting is open to the public.
One item on the commission’s agenda is the status of shrimp landings in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Pat Keliher, acting commissioner of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, said last week that all dealers of Gulf of Maine shrimp in the three states are required to file weekly reports about landings, but only roughly half of the dealers have filed reports since the season began on Jan. 2.
In recent years, only state-licensed dealers have been required to file landings reports, and they were required to do so only once a month. Regulators increased the reporting rate for this season to keep better track of landings and to try to avoid excessive catches that have led to premature shrimp fishery closures each of the past two years.
Commission staffers also are expected to be questioned about this year’s landings limit of 4.2 million pounds, which is about half of what it has been in recent years.
A group called Save Our Shrimp, composed of shrimp fishermen, processors and dealers, claims there is scientific evidence that suggests the number of shrimp in the Gulf of Maine is higher than what government regulators have said. Representatives of Save Our Shrimp have started an online petition to increase the catch limit and are expected to attend Thursday’s meeting.
According to DMR statistics, shrimp landings have fluctuated greatly over the past several decades. In 1996, nearly 18 million pounds of shrimp were landed in Maine, but by 2002 that number had shrunk to 845,000 pounds. During the 2010-11 season, 12.2 million pounds, or about 90 percent of all shrimp caught in the gulf, were caught by Maine fishermen. The total estimated value of the shrimp caught in Maine last winter is $6.6 million, the highest it has been since 1997.