Northern Shrimp & Warming Water

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Don't let ASMFC off the hook on this one...

Yes, warming water probably played a role in the shrimp's demise.  But let's not forget that this problem didn't appear out of nowhere; biologists have seen it coming for a while.
 
Last year, for example, biologists recommended a moratorium, or at most a very small quota, and advised that if a season was opened, it not begin unless at least 50% of the shrimp have had a chance to reproduce.
 
ASMFC decided to open a season with a quota that represented a significant reduction--over 70%--from the previous year, but was still so large that fishermen couldn't come close to filling it all.  And harvest began well before the date recommended by the scientists, which could only contribute to recruitment failure.
 
Finally, this year ASMFC prohibited harvest, after a number of failed year classes occurred.  It was a classic case of ASMFC's propensity to close the barn door after the horse was not only gone, but already dead and simmering in the glue pot, so that the maximum possible revenue can first be cooked out of its bones.
 
We can repeat a litany of species failed by ASMFC managers:  tautog (15 years to accept the biologists recommendation re maximum harvest levels); American eel (can't close the Maine glass eel fishery while people are still making money, despite a badly depleted stock), southern New England winter flounder (when NMFS imposed a moratorium, representatives of the recreational fishery insisted on maintaining a small kill), river herring (when you know there's a problem, there's no need to study it to death; take some remedial action before folks start talking about possible Endangered Species listings, and modify things later as the data comes in), American shad (if you know there's a problem with the ocean intercept fishery, why let it go on for another five years?), etc.  ASMFC has gotten a lot of mileage out of the striped bass recovery, but that happened in 1995--what have they done right lately?  And if we take a good look, striped bass haven't been doing so well in recent years, yet an attempt to put in interim harvest reductions last fall, in response to a substantial chance that overfishing will occur next year, was roundly rebuffed in favor of a more deliberative process that hopefully will--but might not--bring some relief to the bass in 2015.
 
Given that, it's pretty hard to understand (or, perhaps, recognizing human nature, not at all difficult to understand) why some angler advocacy groups are now pushing to end federal management of various species, and hand management over to the states--they want to avoid scientific mandates to limit the kill and avoid legal mandates to end overfishing and rebuild stocks.  In short, they want fish stocks to be managed like northern shrimp.
 
It would be far better if they took up the conservation banner and tried to put sideboards around ASMFC, so that their management more closely resembled that of the federal system, and stocks are actually conserved and restored.  But in these latter days, conservation seems to be a passe cause.  Instead, it's all about the short term, and taking what you can before it's gone. 

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