Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Maine lobstermen say move to avert collapse of herring fishery will have dire consequences - Portland Press Herald

Mitch Nunan loads herring onto his lobster boat in 2017, when the herring quota was 110,000 metric tons. Regulators reduced that by half this year and are proposing to drop it to 14,558 metric tons in 2019.

​Maine lobster is a wild catch but it's not entirely wild.  Bait draws the bugs into the wire mesh traps.  The smaller ones escape, the larger are, well, trapped.​  The traditional bait is herring.  Absent herring pogies (menhaden or bunker) are the next bait of choice.  But the surging lobster population, free of its overfished predator Cod, demands a lot of bait/  So the purse seiners and mid-water trawlers for herring ar facing a near shutdown of the herring fishery.  That prospect is cause for alarm. - gwc
Maine lobstermen say move to avert collapse of herring fishery will have dire consequences - Portland Press Herald

by Penelope Overton

Regulators are taking drastic steps to avert a collapse of the herring fishery, adopting trawling bans and proposing rock-bottom quotas.
While environmental groups and those who fish species that rely on herring for food, like striped bass and tuna, cheered the action, the Maine lobster industry was left wondering how it will survive without its favorite bait. Patrice McCarron, the executive director of the Maine Lobstermen Association, predicted it will force some lobstermen off the water.
“It is going to be really devastating,” McCarron told the New England Fisheries Management Council on Tuesday. “People aren’t going to be able to fish. There’s just not going to be enough bait. If you do get bait, you’re going to be on rations. The price of bait is going to skyrocket. … A lot of people are going to go out of business.”
About 70 percent of all herring landed in the U.S. ends up as bait, mostly for the lobster industry. In the last five years, as lobster hauls increased, the demand for herring went up, too, just as herring landings began to fall, McCarron said. That has driven up the bait price. In 2013, Maine lobstermen were paying $30 a bushel. Now, a bushel costs $45 on the coast, or $60 on the islands.
McCarron expects the price of bait to double next year, which would be a disaster for Maine lobstermen, she said. Her organization has been meeting with Maine bait dealers to talk about their storage capability, which she said was limited, and herring alternatives such as pogeys and redfish, whose prices likely will rise as lobstermen are forced to abandon herring as bait.
Pat Keliher, the commissioner of Maine Department of Marine Resources, failed to persuade the council Tuesday to reduce the amount of herring it will leave in the sea to feed other fish – the council settled on 20 percent – and to keep more of the small quota that it wants to set for 2019 for those who fish in the area near shore in the Gulf of Maine.