NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council manage the brown shrimp fishery in federal waters off the US South Atlantic (North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (east coast)) under the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan (FMP). In federal waters, the Shrimp FMP originally established a maximum sustainable yield for the fishery, provided South Atlantic states the ability to request closures after deep winter freezes (to protect surviving populations), and established gear restrictions (no trawling is allowed with mesh less than 4 inches wide seaward to 25 nautical miles). Subsequent amendments to the South Atlantic Shrimp FMP have included measures that:
- Add rock and pink shrimp to the management plan;
- Require the use of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) in all shrimp trawlers operating in the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone. Otter trawls must also use turtle excluder devices (TEDs); and,
- Establishes Essential Fish Habitat and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.
Among other measures the South Atlantic Shrimp FMP addresses are permit requirements, mandatory trip reports, and onboard observers (if selected) to collect data on harvest and bycatch.
South Atlantic state resource management agencies are responsible for management of brown shrimp in state waters (up to three nautical miles from shore) and specific management measures can vary state to state. As certain sea turtle species are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal TED regulations for otter trawl fisheries apply to all state waters. Additionally, BRDs are required in all state waters off the South Atlantic. According to a 2016 stock assessment brown shrimp in the South Atlantic are not overfished, nor subject to overfishing.
NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manage the brown shrimp fishery in federal waters off the US Gulf of Mexico (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (Gulf Coast) under the Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Fishery Plan (FMP). The majority of the US brown shrimp harvest occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and the fishery is considered to be one of the most valuable in the southeastern United States. Amongst one the principal goals of the Gulf of Mexico Shrimp FMP is to protect shrimp stocks from overfishing. In an effort to prevent overfishing, no new commercial fishing permits are currently being issued. Other management measures include:
- Area and seasonal closures to protect juvenile shrimp (federal waters off Texas are closed from mid-May to mid-July);
- Identifying and protecting Essential Fish Habitat;
- Bycatch reduction measures to reduce bycatch of sea turtles and finfish (areas can be closed if finfish bycatch exceeds certain thresholds);
- Gear restrictions (trawlers must have a weak-link in the “tickler chain” – a chain that hangs in front of the net and drags along the ocean floor to stir up shrimp – allowing for the tickler chain to drop away if hung up on bottom structures);
- Mandatory electronic logbook submission; and,
- Observer coverage (if selected).
State resource management agencies are responsible for management of brown shrimp in state waters in the Gulf of Mexico and specific management measures can vary state to state. For instance, Texas does not allow the use of skimmer trawls and Florida requires all skimmer trawls be equipped with TEDs; however, this is not the case for other Gulf States. While all otter trawls operating in the US Gulf of Mexico are required to use TEDs in accordance to measures outlined in the ESA; skimmer trawls are currently exempt from this requirement if they operate with alternative tow-time restrictions – meaning that trawl times cannot exceed a 55 or 75 minutes (depending on location) during specific times the year. Other measures to address bycatch, such as the use of BRDs vary depending on the state. According to a 2016 stock assessment brown shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico are not overfished, nor subject to overfishing.
In Mexico, the brown shrimp fishery is managed by a network of federal agencies including: the Secretaría de Agrucultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA, the Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food), the Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca (CONAPESCA, the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fisheries), and the Instituto Nacional de Pesca (INAPESCA, National Fisheries Institute). The overall goal of these agencies is to promote the long-term sustainability, conservation, and protection of natural resources. Among the measures these different agencies put in place to manage various Mexican shrimp fisheries include:
- Observer surveillance and vessel monitoring programs;
- Seasonal closures (generally between May and September in the Gulf of Mexico) and area closures (the 2007 Sustainability Law for Fisheries banned trawling in estuaries, lagoons, bays, and in depths less than 30 feet (9.2 meters) as well as banned fishing of any gear type on reefs);
- Gear restrictions;
- Mandatory use of fish exclusion devices, BRDs, and TEDs; and,
- Buyout programs to reduce fishing effort.
While many Mexican shrimp stocks are in decline, brown shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico have consistently maintained productivity. Despite the current management measures in place and the relatively steady stock status of brown shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, there are still significant concerns that management has been ineffective due to poor compliance, enforcement issues, as well as illegal fishing.