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Recreational Shrimpers In Prince William Sound

In an effort to protect the popular recreational spotted and striped shrimp fishery in Prince William Sound, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Wednesday cut the maximum number of pots per vessel from five to four for the season beginning April 15.

Since 2010, the number of pots allowed sport, subsistence and personal use shrimpers in the sound has been cut in half; it went from five to eight that year after a strong preseason population estimate.

Over the last three years, an average of 89,500 pounds of shrimp have been harvested annually by noncommercial shrimpers.

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State biologists want this year’s total Prince William Sound shrimp harvest to be 117,653 pounds — with 40 percent going to commercial shrimpers and 60 percent (or 70,500 pounds) for sport, subsistence and personal use.

Because the actual noncommercial harvest the last three years has been 27 percent above this year’s target, Fish and Game decided to reduce the number of pots.

“We’re seeing indications the shrimp population isn’t as strong as it’s been,” said Jay Baumer, Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant area management biologist for Prince William Sound. “I think users will notice this, but when they realize we’re doing this to make sure the population of shrimp is strong for the future, more people will be on board.”

Shrimpers must have a free permit, available at Fish and Game offices, select vendors and online beginning March 31. There’s no limit on how many shrimp may be taken in each pot or during the season that ends Sept. 15.

About 3,000 permits are issued each year, and participation has been flat since 2010, Baumer said.

“Well,” said Palmer shrimp pot builder Steve Kalek, “that’s a lot of gear in the water. That’s 12,000 pots if people just go once and a lot of folks go out a lot.

“My thinking has been that there’s probably people fishing two to three sets of gear. There’s not that much enforcement out there.”

After a 19-year hiatus, commercial Prince William Sound shrimping resumed in 2010.

“We want to watch it and make sure (a declining population) isn’t a continuing trend,” Baumer said. “We’re definitely being careful about it.”

One problem, Kalek said, is that Fish and Game managers have no idea how the sport and recreational shrimpers are doing until the season ends and the permits are turned in. “They should make the rec guys report every 30 days,” he said.

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