PORTLAND, Maine — With the prospect of New England’s shuttered shrimp fishery reopening this winter, new rules are being designed to perpetuate the crustacean’s numbers and prevent another shutdown.
Maine fishermen once caught millions of pounds of the shrimp every year, with fishermen also bringing some ashore in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But as the Gulf of Maine waters warmed, the catch plummeted from more than 13 million pounds in 2010 to less than 700,000 in 2013. The fishery shut down that year.
A decision on whether to allow the fishery to reopen could come in November.
With that in mind, an arm of the regulatory Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is developing new rules for the fishery to put it in a better position to sustain itself if it does reopen, said Max Appelman, a fishery management plan coordinator for the Atlantic States.
The proposals include a requirement that trawlers use new gear to minimize the catch of small shrimp; penalties for states that exceed quotas; maximum fishing season lengths; and a new state-by-state allocation program.
The shrimp, called Maine shrimp or northern shrimp, are small and pink, with somewhat sweet meat. They were a popular winter seafood item at restaurants and stores in New England and beyond before the shutdown.
Joe Leask, a Maine fisherman who used to harvest shrimp, said he’s hopeful the fishery can reopen next year. But if so, he said, his participation will depend on price and the size of the quota.
“It’s got to be something where you can make money,” he said. “It’s not worth it to go just to change the water in your net.”