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June 19, 2017

Fish kill seen as bait-fish windfall for lobstermen

Lobstermen and other shellfish harvesters are assisting local efforts today to clean up a massive fish kill of "hundreds of thousands" of menhaden floating in the water and along the shores of Middle and Maquoit bays in Brunswick.

WMTW reported that fishermen gathered at 10 a.m. today in Maquoit Bay to begin collecting the dead fish, commonly called pogies, for use as crab and lobster bait. At 10:30 a.m., the TV station reported, those clean-up efforts would extend to the Simpson's Point area of Middle Bay.

Other teams would be removing fish along the shores of the two bays.

The Times Record reported that Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher told the Brunswick newspaper that the fish kill was the result of a single incident where a fishing vessel was ill equipped to handle a large catch — and not the result of low oxygen content in the water, which contributed to massive die-offs of pogies in Harpswell, Brunswick, West Bath and Bath in the early 1990s.

Last November, the Associated Press reported that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission reported that the population of menhaden, a fish only topped by herring as the most popular bait for Maine's lobster industry continues to be healthy. Atlantic Menhaden Board Chairman Robert Ballou told the Associated Press at that time that the healthy population levels will give regulators a chance to reevaluate how to manage the fishery, which is typically worth more than $100 million annually.

Maine DMR reopened Maine's menhaden fishery last August after a temporary closure that was prompted by reports that the annual landings quota for Maine, Rhode Island and New York had been exceeded.

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