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November 14, 2018

Lobster industry chief expects bait crunch

Courtesy / U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Courtesy / U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The prospect of a shortage of herring due to an expected cutback in the Atlantic herring catch quota is already causing concern to Maine lobstermen, who fear it will create serious shortages and drive up costs for their primary baitfish.
Courtesy / Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Chart shows where the Atlantic herring stocks are located.

An expected cutback of the Atlantic herring catch quota is causing concern among lobster fishing interests, which largely rely on herring as bait.

"We obviously have to be looking at different sources of bait," Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, told the Bangor Daily News this week. He added that a quota cut could drive up bait costs.

Fishermen's Voice reported that at the September meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council, Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, said: "We predict it's going to be devastating."

Tuna fishing interests said the expected cutback will affect them, too. At that meeting, the council decided to adopt a rule that would slash the fishing quota for the Atlantic herring fishery for fishing years 2019 through 2021. It also decided to ban boats using midwater trawl gear from within 12 miles of the shore from the Canadian border to Connecticut. The actions are part of the Amendment 8 to the Atlantic herring fishery management plan.

The herring fishery is overseen by the New England Fishery Management Council. The expected quota cutback is driven by a 2018 benchmark stock assessment, conducted by the Atlantic Herring Stock Assessment Working Group. The assessment indicated that recruitment — incoming year classes of newly born fish — has been poor for several years. The working group said that four of the six lowest estimates of herring recruitment occurred in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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