Dan Ayres
48 Devonshire Rd.
Montesano, WA 98563
360-249-4628 ext. 209
Daniel.Ayres@dfw.wa.gov

Lorna Wargo
48 Devonshire Rd.
Montesano, WA 98563
360-249-4628 ext. 221
Lorna.Wargo@dfw.wa.gov

 
Report Derelict Fishing Gear

 
Coastal Commercial Pink Shrimp Fishery

Introduction

Photo: Shrimp trawl fleet at Westport
Shrimp trawl fleet at Westport

Commercial shrimp fishing off Washington dates from the late 1950’s. Although other species of shrimp are present, only pink shrimp (Pandalus jordani) has been abundant enough to support a large, long-term commercial fishery.

Beginning off Grays Harbor in 1956, the inception of mechanical peelers and growing consumer demand for “cocktail” shrimp spurred fishery development. Catches in 1958 exceeded 6.5 million pounds but declined to less than 2 million pounds annually through the 1960’s. In subsequent decades, landings fluctuated in response to shrimp abundance and market forces.

Washington coastal shrimp fishing activity is split between two ports: Westport and Ilwaco, with processors located at each.

Pink shrimp are caught by trawl gear; the majority of active vessels in the Washington fleet are double-rigged with semi-pelagic, fine-meshed shrimp nets.

Fishing occurs during daylight hours reflecting the behavior of ocean pink shrimp which exhibit a vertical diurnal migration, moving to the bottom during daylight hours and ascending to feed at night. The typical commercial trip ranges from 3 to 6 days including transit to and from the fishing grounds. Shorter trips can occur when fishing is especially productive.

Photo: Shrimp haul being dumped into hopper.
Shrimp haul being dumped into hopper.
Hoop Grate Excluder
Hoop Grate Excluder
Pink Shrimp off-load at Westport, WA
Pink Shrimp off-load at Westport, WA

Stock Status

Recent pink shrimp abundance off the coast of Washington has not been specifically determined, but there are strong indications it is stable. The well-documented pink shrimp fishery in the Oregon waters adjacent to Washington does provide some insight into the strength of Washington’s stock. As much as one-third of the shrimp landed into Oregon ports come from waters off Washington State and these landings are included in Oregon’s extensive sampling and logbook evaluation program. By many measures, the Washington and northern Oregon stocks are considered contiguous.

We know that studies in Oregon of trawl fishing’s effects on the overall stocks of pink shrimp show that the environment is the driver of juvenile shrimp recruitment. There is little evidence that harvest reduces recruitment. Ocean shrimp stocks remain resilient to both naturally caused variations in distribution and fishery impacts according to spawning stock and recruitment indices recently updated by Oregon fishery managers. This is proven out by simply reviewing the total ocean shrimp landings, which in 2014 exceeded the previous record high by 100% with 30.6 million pounds, recorded. The previous high landing was in 1993 with 15.5 million pounds and the twenty-five year average (going back to 1990) is 8.6 million pounds landed annually.

Management

The Washington pink shrimp fishery is state managed, although it is also subject to federal restrictions for groundfish catch and essential fish habitat (EFH) through the Pacific Fishery Management Council Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PFMC 2014). State pink shrimp trawl fishery licenses issued by Washington, Oregon, and California regulate where a vessel may land. Along the Washington coast, the pink shrimp fishery operates in federal waters (3-200 miles); most commercial gears, including trawl, are prohibited inside Washington state waters (0-3 miles).

In 1982, the states of Washington, Oregon, and California established a common season and a maximum count per pound regulation to minimize regulatory conflicts. The fishing season is fixed in permanent regulation, opening and closing on April 1 and October 31, respectively. The maximum count per pound is 160.

In 1994, the Washington limited entry (LE) license program established 143 licenses. As of 2014, the number of LE licenses stood at 83. Licenses must be renewed annually, but do not need to be fished actively to remain valid; the decline is attributed to LE license owners electing not to renew.