Closing of Stinson Seafood Plant Likely to Further Disrupt Bait Market



GOULDSBORO — If the Stinson Seafood sardine plant closes in April as its owner, Bumble Bee LLC has promised, there is little doubt that it will likely shake up the market for lobster bait.

 

During fishing season, lobstermen from Eastport to Boothbay Harbor have traveled to the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor to fill their trucks with barrels of herring to be used as bait. — STEPHEN RAPPAPORT
During fishing season, lobstermen from Eastport to Boothbay Harbor have traveled to the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor to fill their trucks with barrels of herring to be used as bait. — STEPHEN RAPPAPORT
But what exactly that shaking may mean for fishermen is as difficult to divine as the arcane workings of the bait business itself.

Herring is the bait favored by most Maine lobstermen. The announcement last fall by the New England Fishery Management Council that the catch quota for herring would be cut by 27 percent — 41 percent in the inshore Gulf of Maine area that supplies most of the herring used by lobstermen — for at least the next three years led to predictions of dire shortages and higher prices for bait.

Stinson was a major supplier of herring bait, although the exact amount it sold is hard to determine. By some estimates, before the herring quota was reduced Stinson was buying something less than 20,000 metric tons of herring annually. According to Gouldsboro selectman and Bunker’s Harbor lobster dealer Dana Rice, as much as half that amount went “out the back door” in the form of trimmings and waste and sold as bait for substantially less than the cost of whole herring.

“The real impact is going to be on the people in the business who were marginal,” Rice said.

For more maritime news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

 

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