Fishery Interactions – MS Shrimp

Recreational Interactions

Due to its highly mobile nature and tendency to harvest in many different habitat types, there is high potential for conflicts and interaction between the Gulf shrimp fishery and other sectors. High incidental catch of finfish and shellfish has created conflicts between shrimp and other fisheries that may utilize species discarded by the shrimp fishery. Commercial shrimp fishermen in Mississippi can keep up to 25 pounds of the following species for personal use if caught in a shrimp trawl: white trout, croaker, black drum, mullet, sheepshead, gafftopsail catfish, and flounders (MS Reg. Title 22 Part 7). Juvenile groundfish and other species are typically not retained by shrimpers because there is low economic value for them and retaining them would reduce available space for retaining shrimp catch. Regulations have been developed to reduce bycatch and BRDs have significantly decreased bycatch of finfish within the shrimp fishery. Effort reductions and seasonal closures have also helped in reducing bycatch (U.S. CFR Title 50 Part 622).

Commercial Interactions

Interactions between shrimpers and both stone crab and blue crab fishermen also occur. The GMFMC Shrimp FMP directly addresses conflicts between the shrimp and stone crab fisheries and establishes five zones within the EEZ to separate shrimp trawling and stone crab trap activity (GMFMC Shrimp FMP -Amendment 3). Blue crab is a bycatch species in shrimp trawls (Fuls et al. 2002), and gear interactions can be a source of conflict between the fisheries. Crab traps, either actively fishing or ghost fishing, are sometimes caught in shrimp trawls, which can cause damage to nets and loss of catch (Guillory et al. 2001). MDMR has taken several steps to reduce these conflicts: implementing the Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program to reduce the number of lost traps that may interact with the trawl fishery, a trap tag system requiring the ID of trap owner be placed on each trap, buoy and line requirements on traps for more easy identification in the water and prevention of floating lines, and areas of restricted use for both the crab and the shrimp fishery which reduces navigational hazards and fishery interactions (Derelict Trap Task Force 2008, MDMR Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program, MDMR 2013). In Mississippi, licensed commercial shrimping boats are limited three dozen blue crabs for personal consumption and must adhere to recreational size limits (Guide to Mississippi Saltwater Fishing).

Other Interactions

Incidental take of sea turtles has created significant conflicts between commercial shrimpers and environmental groups. Requirements for TEDs and guidelines on proper handling, resuscitation,  and release of sea turtles have significantly reduced sea turtle mortality in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery (50 CFR § 223.206, 50 CFR § 622). Additionally, the shrimp industry, along with federal and state agencies have also been active in other conservation efforts to aid the recovery of sea turtle populations including head-start programs to raise hatchling sea turtles in captivity for later release; nest protection programs in Florida, Texas, and Mexico; and education programs to raise awareness among user groups regarding sea turtle conservation actions (SEFC-Galveston Lab).

Another source of conflict for the shrimp fishery is underwater obstructions that cause loss of gear or trawlable bottom areas. Such structures include artificial reefs, and oil and gas activities/structures,  among others. Measure 10 of the shrimp FMP adopted by the council is “The GMFMC will attempt to reduce, where feasible, the loss of offshore trawlable bottom by establishing within GMFMC a committee to monitor and review construction of offshore reefs, with attention to the needs of reef fish,  and shrimp user groups (GMFMC shrimp FMP).” Furthermore, the Texas Sea Grant program developed “hang” books as a guide for shrimp vessels in the Gulf of Mexico documenting bottom obstructions and areas to avoid trawling due to potential interactions (Graham1983, Graham 1981). Additionally,  there are federal laws in place that provide for compensation to fishermen to cover damage to gear and vessels from underwater obstructions.


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