Federal regulators are canceling the commercial fishing season for shrimp in the Gulf of Maine for a second straight year, citing a population collapse blamed partly on rising ocean temperatures.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section voted Wednesday in Portland to cancel the upcoming winter season. Regulators say the region’s population of northern shrimp fell dramatically from 2011 to 2013.

Regulators voted to set aside the entire shrimp quota of 25 metric tons for research, according to Marin Hawk, the commission’s management coordinator for the species.

Twenty-five metric tons is a minuscule amount of shrimp compared with landings of recent years. In 2010, which recorded the largest shrimp catch since 1996, fishermen landed 5,566 metric tons of shrimp, valued at $6.6 million. By 2012, the shrimp catch had plummeted to 2,185 metric tons with a value of $4.6 million.

Northern shrimp have been a small but valuable fishery for New England fishermen, with several hundred boats going after them using nets and traps. Maine boats typically catch about 85 percent to 90 percent of the annual harvest in the Gulf of Maine.

Pete Seiders, dock manager at the South Bristol Co-Op, which buys shrimp from two trawlers and more than a dozen fishermen who use traps to harvest shrimp, said the closure will make it harder for the fishermen, buyers and processors to pay their bills during the winter. The season typically runs from December to May.


Worse, the closure for two seasons in a row will make it much harder for the fishery to be rebuilt when the shrimp population rebounds. He said shrimp will lose its position in the marketplace with restaurants and consumers, and processors that have invested heavily in equipment to process shrimp may switch to other species with more dependable harvests.

The last commercial harvest was two years ago, and at 255.5 metric tons, it was the smallest harvest since the 32.8 metric tons landed in 1978.

“Basically, we’ve had three years of no season or not much to catch,” Seiders said. “I’m worried we may not see shrimp again for a while.”

Northern shrimp, which are small but sweet, are a popular dish at Maine restaurants.


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