Last year's voluntary stand-down was primarily a count-per-pound issue, however, this season fishermen are delaying fishing to let the eggs drop and also to give processors a chance to clear inventories.
Looking historically, we always see the boats pricing drive and set the pricing for new shrimp seasons.
Two years ago supply was good so prices opening low, in the mid-high $2.00 range for the 250-350ct.
Last year shrimp prices hit a ceiling at the $5.35 mark with inventories still available.
As of last week, price points range from $4.95 to $5.05 to clear out remaining stock - which is surprising when you consider the quota cuts in East coast Borealis stocks after recent announcements by Canada's Department of Fish and Oceans.
Landing prices this year are rumoured to be between anywhere 40 and 60 percent less than last year - another big factor in the voluntary stand down to allow the shrimp to mature.
“Climate change and upwelling play a big part in the delay of the fishery,” according to Laurie Weitkamp from NOAA. "In the short-term, there’s a more than 50 percent chance that there’s going to be an El Niño next fall and from what I’ve seen it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a strong one but that is not good for shrimp recruitment so they’ve found looking at this relationship between crescent city sea level height shrimp recruitment - El Niño’s are bad. So that’s a cause for concern. Kind of in the longer term - one of the big questions is what is going to happen to the productivity in the California current. So the reason the sea level heights in Crescent City goes down and up is that we have these strong northerly winds during the summer that causes Upwelling - it pushes water offshore - surface water offshore and cold nutrient rich water comes up - and that appears to be driving some productivity - somehow closely related whether it’s transporting larvae back onto the shelf but one of the big questions in the future is whether those winds are gonna continue in the way they have historically or not and that’s an area of considerable debate at present."
As with any wild species, estimating biomass is difficult and Laurie noted that "predictability of the resource is starting to go down."
The last couple of years have been pretty good in terms of year class for the shrimp, but a lot of the forecasting relationships that are based on a couple of decades of data are starting to degenerate.
Scott Groth from the Oregon Department of Fish and Game agreed that the increasing "variability of oceanographic regimes" is correlated to the predictability of the species.
Ultimately there will always be a commercial fishery, but as Scott mentioned: Fishermen and processors decide what is best for the market, "within the bounds of safe, sustainable harvest."
Buyers can expect the low pricing on 250-350 count to remain for a few months as inventories clear.
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