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Michael Souza

Northern Shrimp Season Called

By February 20, 2012

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    Quota reached, says ASMFC
    The New England shrimp fishing season was called to an immediate stop on Friday, February 17. According to officials at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the fishery has reached its maximum allowable catch for the season.
    The decision was made two days prior, when ASMFC regulators met with each other in Portland, Maine. According to their calculations, the fishery had probably surpassed the limit of 4.9 million pounds. It was their belief that the fishery needed to be closed; if not, poor shrimping next year would be a distinct possibility.
    However, fishermen disagree, saying that the stocks appear to be in good shape according to their field operations. The early closure is hurting them, they say.
    This is an exact repeat of last month's discussion on Gulf of Maine cod. Last fall, new surveys indicated that cod projections were way off, and instead of the stock being rebuilt by 2014, new estimates calculated it at 2020. But fishermen throughout the fishery say they have never seen so much cod. Fishermen continue to contend, as they have for years, that studies and sampling conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are inaccurate. And while shrimp is just a small part of the northeast fishery, this year's fleet consisted of about 250 boats from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
    This year's season was short. It began on Jan. 2 and ended Feb. 17. Many fishermen hoped it would last at least until the end of February. The ASMFC members believed that by the time the votes are in and the final weights tallied, the amount could be as high as 5.5 to 6.0 million pounds.
    Fishermen may have a point for doubting stock assessment figures. In 2011, the total limit that was allowed to be caught was 13.3 million pounds, with the 2012 limit being one third of that. They argue that the scientific model used to determine the harvest limit is flawed and underestimates the shrimp biomass in the Gulf of Maine, or for that matter, the amount of cod.

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