At its April meeting in Baton Rouge, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took action to initiate the development of a scoping document with options to address the expiration of the current shrimp limited entry permit moratorium in 2016. This document will provide the foundation for what will become Amendment 17 to the Gulf Shrimp Fishery Management Plan. The current moratorium is set forth in Amendment 13 to the Shrimp FMP. [Shrimp Amendment 13]
At the time Amendment 13 was adopted in 2005, the Gulf Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) believed that the Gulf shrimp fishery was overcapitalized. Consequently, through Amendment 13 the Council established a limited entry system and placed a 10-year moratorium on the issuance of new permits for shrimp fishing in the Gulf.
That moratorium is due to expire on October 26, 2016. At that time the Council has the options to allow the moratorium to remain expired; to renew the current moratorium for another specified period of time; or to establish a new revised permit moratorium with a new set of objectives and requirements. Active shrimp industry participation and input in this decision-making process will be essential.
The Council’s recent action also reflected a motion offered by the Southern Shrimp Alliance at the March 2014 meeting of the Shrimp Advisory Panel. SSA’s motion as adopted was for the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and NMFS “to perform the necessary analyses to support decisions regarding expiration of of the Amendment 13 permit moratorium, to include biological yield, economic yield, CPUE, shrimping effort, and permit activity status over time.”
According to SSA Executive Director John Williams; “Looking ahead, these analyses will yield information that will be absolutely central to the shrimp industry’s ability to evaluate which permit options will serve the best interests of the fishery into the next decade. As this process moves forward, it will be imperative for the shrimp industry to come together behind a clear set of objectives for what it wants this fishery to look like in the future.”
As an example, one alternative is for the shrimp industry to maximize the biological yield in terms of the total annual production in pounds (maximum sustainable yield (MSY)). This objective would tend to favor expanding the size of the fleet.
As another alternative, the industry may instead prefer to account for catch per unit effort (CPUE) and shrimp size in achieving some level of economic yield such as the Maximum Economic Yield (MEY)). This objective would tend to favor limiting the number of active vessels in the fleet to some optimum level.
Yet another set of considerations will be the activity status of individual permits over time during the current moratorium and how that should be considered in the future.
There are many reasons why a permit may not have been active in terms of fishing activity and recorded landings since the moratorium was established. Historically, the environmental NGO’s and at times NMFS itself have raised concerns over the number of so-called “latent permits” that should be allowed in the fleet. Of course, the shrimp industry itself also has a keen interest in how latent permits will be addressed.
Consequently, another important objective for the shrimp industry to define will be what number of active and latent permits should be allowed after October, 2016, and how to define what a latent permit is.
Added Mr. Williams; “These are among the many sensitive biological, economic and social issues the industry will need to consider in defining its objectives for the future and for choosing which permit management options should be adopted by the Council after 2016. SSA remains committed to providing the leadership the shrimp industry will need as this critical process moves forward through the Shrimp AP, the Council’s Shrimp Committee, the full Gulf Council and NMFS”.