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Feeling grate-full

Posted: Wednesday, Dec 29th, 2010

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Jones looks at the bycatch during testing of an excluder grate in a pink shrimp trawl off the Oregon coast. Use of the grates helped make the Oregon pink shrimp fishery the first shrimp fishery in the world certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. (Courtesy photo from ODFW)

Change should keep threatened smelt out of pink shrimp nets

In 2007, Oregon’s pink shrimp industry became the state’s first fishery and the world’s first shrimp fishery to earn certification from the international Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), in large part for harvesting coldwater shrimp in an ecologically friendly manner.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/Marine Resources Program officials say most shrimp trawl fisheries are notorious for high levels of fish bycatch.

The key to the pink shrimp fishery’s successful eco-exploits involves harvesting with trawl nets containing a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) known as the Oregon Grate - a “fish sorter” placed in the net to separate the shrimp from other fish and prevent excessive incidental capture of other species, such as hake and rockfish. Developed through a long-term collaboration between the fishery and ODFW, the grate keeps the shrimp in the net while allowing most fish to escape, guided by either rigid aluminum grids (preferred by most fishermen) or soft panels through a large opening at the top of the net. The circular metal grate with evenly-spaced bars placed in the throat of a trawl net at a slight angle. The spacing of the bars is large enough to let the pink shrimp through, but small enough to deflect fish up and out a v-shaped escape hole at the top of the net. The resulting catch contains pink shrimp and very little else.

Use of BRDs - mandatory in Oregon since April 1, 2003 - has helped make the Oregon pink shrimp fishery one of the “cleanest” fisheries, with little or no impact on any other commercial species.

Now, however, a small fish, called eulachon or sometimes Pacific smelt or Columbia River smelt by Oregonians, is putting the shrimp fishery at risk.

For the complete article see the 12-29-2010 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-29-2010 paper.

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