Maine Shrimp 2017 Update
Well folks, we have good news and bad news on our beloved Maine shrimp. The good news first- we will have 10 lbs. of fresh head on shrimp coming in this morning! The bad news is that it’s going to be very pricy and we’re only seeing very limited landings, and here’s why. For the fourth year in a row now the state of Maine has officially closed the season due to a lack of shrimp coming inshore in the Gulf of Maine (the southern most part of their range) to spawn. We’ve been told that warming water temperatures are keeping the shrimp farther north and if this trend continues it may be years, if ever, for the fishery to rebound.
The state, through a lottery system, has allowed 8 trawlers and 5 trappers to harvest for stock assessments for future regulation. The trawlers are allowed 1200 lbs. per trip and the trappers are allowed 500 lb. per week. Not much shrimp for the huge demand out there. All the shrimp are being sold whole “head on” mostly to high end “white tablecloths” in New York.
The Maine, or northern shrimp, catches have fluctuated wildly since the fishery began in the 20’s. Five metric tons were taken in 1940, 264 tons in 1945, zero in the mid 50’s (warmer waters in that period probably to blame), then a huge jump to 12,800 tons in the year that I graduated high school (1969 baby), 387 tons in ‘77. The season closed in ‘78 then 439 tons in ‘79 and now things are rough again. Read more about these pink jewels here.
Since water temperature plays such a big role as to how far south these arctic boreal shrimp will spawn and the Gulf of Maine is the southern most part of their range we have always seen these crazy fluctuations. This gives us hope for future seasons. The season has always been a mid-winter boom for the Maine shrimpers and also an exciting shot in the arm for us at the market during the slow first of the year doldrums. For four years we’ve had a sad sense that something so special was missing.
When we were able to get our hands on 5 lbs. a couple weeks ago my kids invited themselves over for dinner. They were allotted 3 shrimp each (I got 2) the rest went to precious customers.
Just got off the phone with the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources. I was told test catches in Maine have been pretty good so far and that there is pressure to possibly open a season next year. Tonight I’m going to up my portion and savor every little hermaphrodite on the plate.
These head on shrimp are best just quickly sautéed and served in the shell. I eat the whole tail and suck the heads. All of our Maine shrimp recipes also can be prepared with our wild gulf shrimp. Just slice larger shrimp into smaller pieces or increase cooking time on whole tails.
Here’s a fine recipe for another tasty head on shrimp (wild gulf shrimp)- New Orleans style barbecued shrimp. Just in time for Mardi Gras!