Date of Award

5-2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Marine Biology

Advisor

Teresa Johnson

Second Committee Member

Margaret Hunter

Third Committee Member

Linda Mercer

Abstract

Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) is an important fishery for the State of Maine but it is susceptible to environmentally-driven changes in stock abundance and market swings, making shrimp fishers economically vulnerable. The overall goal of the research project was to evaluate the benefit and feasibility of certifying the Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery as a sustainable fishery with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). In a partnership with Maine's Department of Marine Resources, we addressed three research tasks. Task one aimed to document and quantify temporal and spatial patterns of bycatch in the trap shrimp fishery. Utilizing on-board observers, this study found that the bycatch level of all non-target species in 2010 was 1.0 percent of catch weight. We recommend an extension of this study with increased temporal and spatial coverage to determine if the minimal bycatch trends observed persist in this fishery with additional years of data. A periodic review of sampling programs is essential to assess if management effectively and efficiently monitors variations in key fisheries statistics needed to achieve management objectives. In task two, we evaluated whether the northern shrimp port sampling program was representative of the commercial catch and effort. Vessel trip reports were used to develop a simulation study examining whether the port sampling program could be streamlined by reducing the number of samples collected. We recommend maintaining the level of sampling intensity for trap gear and increasing the sampling effort for trawl gear. We also suggested that both temporal and spatial factors be considered in optimizing sampling program design to capture variation of the catch and effort in this fishery. These results can help determine a cost-effective level of sampling effort in the Maine shrimp fishery. The focus of the third task was to evaluate the concerns and needs of the shrimp fishers. Our goal was to gather basic biographical information on those participating in the fishery and learn whether there was support for MSC certification. This study found that shrimp fishers in Maine are diverse in age, experience, dependence on the fishery, and that shrimp fishers may be vulnerable to changes in the fishing industry. We also found overwhelming concern regarding stability of the shrimp market but at the time of the survey, there does not appear to be support for undertaking the MSC certification process. After these data gaps were addressed, the northern shrimp fishery was evaluated against MSC's principles. Based on this analysis, the likely total score for this fishery would be 71.4. A score of 80 is necessary for certification. A lack of documentation and a lack of continuous monitoring of the fisheries interaction with other species and the surrounding ecosystem were identified as the two overarching weaknesses. We concluded that it would be feasible for this fishery to obtain a certification with MSC. However, our study found that some MSC benefits are unsubstantiated; therefore, the northern shrimp management should determine long-term objectives and evaluate alignment with MSC outcomes before considering a certification bid.

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