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October 18, 2013

Commission, fishermen disagree on shrimp stocks

There is, it seems, more bad news coming out of the ocean than fish.

In yet another blow to local commercial fishermen who work the Gulf of Maine winter shrimp season, it appears the 2013-14 shrimping season may be even more dismal than last year’s abbreviated and paltry campaign.

Marin Hawk of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the multistate body that manages near-shore species such as shrimp, said that the data collected to date indicates the current shrimp stock could be the lowest since the organization started keeping records in 1984.

“The update isn’t quite completed, but the indices this year are the lowest on record and there was another recruitment failure,” Hawk said, referring to the term that attempts to quantify how many of a particular species make their way into a specific fishery.

“It’s not looking good, in short,” she said. “We’re just not seeing as many [shrimp] as we used to and they’re not where they used to be.”

Gloucester fisherman Paul Theriault would argue that point. He’s already seeing mature, egg-laden shrimp — some among the largest he’s seen in more than two decades of fishing.

In the last week of September, Theriault said he was captaining his F/V Terminator in waters about 15 miles north of Rockport, performing a bait tow in advance of that day’s tuna fishing.

“We were towing using a raised foot-rope trawl, which fishes about 4 feet off the bottom,” Theriault said.

Part of what he pulled in startled him ­— huge, mature shrimp he estimated at six years old, almost all bursting with eggs.

That led him to two possibilities: The shrimp stocks aren’t as depleted as the scientists maintain or the shrimp are coming in closer — and earlier — to shore to lay their eggs than the fishery management surveys have indicated.

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