BAR HARBOR — The directed herring fishery for the inshore Gulf of Maine opened up for the first time since August last week after receiving a boost in quota from the Canadian weir fishery. Less than a day later, regulators announced that the season’s catch limit had been hit and the fishery was once again closed.
“The overall quota is very low for 2021, as it was last year,” said Toni Kerns, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fisheries policy director, in an email.
The fishery opened on Nov. 8 at 12:01 a.m. and then regulators called for it to close by 6 p.m. That was later extended to 9 p.m. because several vessels said they had fish on board when the closure notification was sent out, but they would not make it back to port by 6 p.m. A commission spokeswoman said the extension was allowed to avoid the dumping of fish.
Herring is a prized bait fish for lobstermen and an important forage fish. It is currently considered overfished, causing quotas to tighten and bait prices to rise.
To keep a tight leash on the fishery, the herring season is split into two seasons. The first season closed early in August and the second season, which runs from October through the end of the year, initially didn’t open because of a lack of quota.
At the beginning of the month, the inshore Gulf of Maine got some reprieve when it was announced that the additional quota would be transferred from the Brunswick fishery. But even with the extra quota, the fishing wasn’t expected to take long to catch up.
“Season 2 does not get a large percentage of (inshore Gulf of Maine) quota, in fact the states did not even open Season 2 for landing days because the quota was so low and both managers and industry agreed if landing days were allowed, even for just one day, the quota would be exceeded,” Kerns wrote. “It was only opened after the 1,000 (metric ton) transfer from the weir fishery with the expectation it would not last but a day.”
During a past call with the Atlantic Marine States Fisheries Commission’s herring manager board, the members said that the quota had taken less than a day in 2020 as well.