Lobster Industry Faces Herring Shortage



PLYMOUTH, Mass. — A recent decision by a panel of fisheries scientists has staggered herring fishermen and left the lobster industry wondering what fishermen will use for bait next year and beyond.

The seiner Fishermans Pride rides alongside the Stonington Fish Pier between trips out into the Gulf of Maine to fish for herring. A reduction in the herring quota that could become effective next year could mean big problems for boats such as this one and the lobstermen who rely on its catch.—STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Last month, a science committee of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) slashed by more than half its recommendation about the amount of herring that could be harvested off the coast of New England and Atlantic Canada without harming the stock. The result will undoubtedly mean that there will be less herring available for lobster bait.

Currently, herring fishermen are allowed to harvest some 43,650 metric tons from the waters of the inner Gulf of Maine known as Area 1A. A “set-aside” for research and bycatch purposes effectively reduces the total allowable catch (TAC) to about 41,000 metric tons.

A little more than 10 percent of the TAC may be landed between January and May. The major portion of the TAC is reserved for the months when the lobster fishery is at its height.

Further complicating the issue, until Oct. 1 each year Area 1A is closed to trawlers that tow huge nets through the water. Herring fishing is permitted only by seine boats, which encircle schools of herring with a net, with fixed gear such as weirs or nets that stop off a cove filled with fish. In recent years, there has been virtually no fixed gear fishery along the Maine coast.

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

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