News Feature

State of Maine
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 1, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, November 1, 2018
Low Atlantic herring quotas concern lobstermen, fisheries management

Last load

A lobsterman brings in a last load into Stonington.

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by Anne Berleant

Atlantic herring landings in Maine have dropped from 103 million pounds in 2014 to just under 66.5 million pounds in 2017, a concern to fishery management agencies.

And also for local lobstermen. Herring feeds birds, fish and mammals but, locally, its primary value is in baiting lobster traps.

To address the declining catch, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association announced lower catch quotas in 2018 than what was originally set for each of four Atlantic herring management areas, going beyond the recommendation of the New England Fisheries Management Council, the agency, along with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that monitors herring quotas.

“The substantial reduction to the herring quota is going to have a significant impact on the cost of bait in 2019,” said Genevieve McDonald, Stonington lobsterman and Downeast Region Representative to the Maine Lobster Advisory Council.

In the Gulf of Maine, the original, overall 2018 quota of 110,536 metric tons was cut to 49,900. In eastern and western Maine (Management Area 1A), where fishermen catch herring from inshore on the Gulf of Maine, the original 31,789 metric ton limit (about 70 million pounds) for 2018 was reduced to 27,743 metric tons, or just over 61 million pounds.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has reacted by designating landing days to control the catch, with the Maine Department of Marine Resources enacting an emergency rule to comply with those landing days in Trimester 3, October 1 to December 31, for Area 1A.

“The Commissioner has determined that it is necessary to take emergency action to implement these limitations to prevent the depletion of the supply of Atlantic herring and to comply with the changes to the interstate management of the Atlantic herring resource,” reads the summary of the emergency rule enacted July 21.

But there may be alternatives to baiting lobster traps with herring, McDonald said. “Over the winter we’re going to need to take a closer look at alternative bait sources and be sure we’re using the best available science and technology to determine if a species is safe to use.”

She added: “Maine is the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in the United States, but salmon is currently a prohibited bait source. I’m curious to learn why salmon are considered safe enough to raise in our bays, but not to use in our traps. I am hoping there is a way for technology to help us solve this problem.”