By Monique Coombs, Director of Marine Programs for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Assocation
On November 28, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to extend the moratorium on Northern Shrimp for a fifth year in a continued attempt to allow the stock to rebuild. After receiving a scientific update that showed declines in the health of the stock, even though no commercial fishery has existed since 2012, the management board felt they had no option but to keep the fishery closed.
The shrimp management board is made up of representatives from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine and each state votes as a unit. The state of Maine pushed hard to allow a small “do no harm” fishery that would allow fishermen to catch shrimp after they had laid their eggs in the spring but NH and MA voted against allowing any commercial fishery.
The Gulf of Maine is at the southernmost reach of the habitat range for Northern Shrimp. If trends continue as predicted, the increasingly warm waters of the Gulf may mean that we may never see this fishery return. This is another huge blow to Maine’s working fishermen, who have historically relied on shrimp as a source of income over the cold winter months.
Over the past four years of this moratorium, you may have occasionally seen Maine shrimp available at seafood markets such as Cantrell’s in Topsham or Harbor Fish Market in Portland. This is because a small group of Maine fishermen were participating in stock research; they were paid to participate by being allowed to land a small amount of shrimp to sell. Last year, in some areas of the coast, fishermen had to stop participating in the research program because the catch was so low it didn’t pay for the time or fuel costs associated with leaving the dock. It is unclear now if Maine will be participating in this research program for 2018. If any shrimp are landed, expect them to cost upwards of $14/lb.
Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the US, but much of it comes from overseas and is raised or caught in very questionable circumstances. Without a local source, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association recommends New Orleans Raw Wild American Shrimp, whichcan be found in the frozen section of the seafood department at Hannaford. For a quick and delicious recipe, I really like this Olive-Oil-Poached Shrimp with Winter Pistou recipe from Bon Appetit.