PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Federal regulators shut down the commercial fishing season for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine for a second straight year on Wednesday, citing concerns about the declining population and warmer ocean temperatures.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Northern Shrimp Section voted to cancel the upcoming season, a year after the section closed this year's season for the first time in more than 30 years. A technical committee that advises the section recommended extending the moratorium for another year.
The "depleted condition of the resource and poor prospects for the near future" warrant another closure, the committee reported, adding that "long term trends in environmental conditions" for the little pink shrimp are unfavorable. The amount of the shrimp's population that can be fished is at an all-time low, regulators said.
The section set aside 25 metric ton quota of northern shrimp for research purposes. The shutdown will hopefully give the shrimp a chance to rebuild population, said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association.
"It's disappointing for our fishermen who really could have used even a small season this year," Martens said. "The long-term goal is to have a robust fishery and this will hopefully get us closer to that."
Fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts fish for the shrimp, which are prized for their sweet, tender meat, and are a popular item at restaurants in the region when they are available. The fishing season is typically in the early part of the year.
Fishermen's catch of the shrimp has declined dramatically in recent years. The three states caught more than 5,000 metric tons of northern shrimp in 2011, with the vast majority landed in Maine. That number fell to less than 2,500 metric tons in 2012 and collapsed to slightly more than 300 metric tons in 2013.
Some fishermen have opposed closure of the fishery because shrimp are a source of winter money. Ben Martens said the shutdown was "probably the only action the section could take" because of the poor stock status.