Fishermen last winter caught about 5.3 million pounds of the region’s small, sweet shrimp, down from 14 million pounds in 2011.
The majority of the catch was by Maine boats, which totaled 276. There were 18 boats shrimping from New Hampshire, including 10 from Yankee Cooperative which landed about 120,000 pounds of the harvest. Another 15 were from Massachusetts.
With quotas of groundfish slashed in half in recent years, expensive and hard-to-get fishing permits, and rigorous and some say excessive federal regulations, the curtailment of shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Maine is another financial hardship for the commercial fishing fleet to absorb. Shrimping during the winter is a way for many independent New Hampshire fishermen manning small boats to survive financially, following the reduction of allowed landings for groundfish like cod and haddock and low prices.
Perkins said the number of fishermen going out shrimping has increased in recent years as income from groundfishing has deteriorated due to federal regulations.
“It’s the end of the year in fishing and many of the fishermen have filled their quotas of groundfish,” Perkins said. “Shrimping is a way to earn income and not have to buy up remaining groundfish quota (unfilled by other fishermen).”
Shrimp-fishing also prevents New Hampshire fishermen from having to travel farther out to sea to the groundfish habitat during winter’s harsh weather and rough seas, Perkins said.
This latest move by the commission could have devastating results for New Hampshire’s 400-year-old fishing industry, which has dwindled drastically over recent years.
At the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative — the only one left in the Granite State, the number of working fishing boats has dropped to about 16 from a high of more than 30 years ago, Perkins said.
Perkins said this development will mean layoffs at the cooperative this winter, even though its new retail store, begun this summer, met expectations.